For the first time in the country’s luxury car industry, Mercedes-Benz will set up a directly-run online platform that will cater to the entire gamut of used cars, new cars and collectibles for customers.
The company will start to sell used cars (October 2019) and new cars (from January 2020) on a new website, through a partnership with American online seller Roadster Inc.
Officials say the idea is to make ordering a car “as easy as ordering a book online.”
In addition to the Internet channel that will work with dealers for delivery, owners of Mercs made between 2007 and 2018 can also get their cars hooked on to the cloud – with the purchase of a recently-released adapter device that operates on bluetooth through their phones and syncs up with the cloud – which Mercedes-Benz retails.
These offerings will be part of a three-phase programme that will be introduced in a phased manner starting November and include more futuristic AI-driven add-ons specific to different cars that are launched.
Is the lead up to the connected car akin to a mobile phone on wheels?
Martin Schwenk, Mercedes-India’s managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) says that is one interpretation but that everything will be executed and rolled out in accordance with data privacy laws and governance.
Presently, all of Mercedes-Benz’s connected features in use worldwide are in compliance with European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws.
While several companies do offer degrees of internet connectivity via the cloud and to an owners’ mobile, the depths of features vary according to the carmaker concerned. So, another manufacturer may inform an owner about an accident with its latest SUV but Mercedes-Benz will go to the point of letting the owner know how many people were in the car, Schwenk says.
With the adapter that Mercedes-Benz is selling, owners will have access to at least 14 different services that include vehicle diagnostics, refuelling updates, roadside breakdown management, online appointment bookings and more. The company’s digital push for phase 1 (Mercedes Me Adapter) and phase 2 (Mercedes Me Connect) and phase 3 (MBUX/Hey Mercedes) will roll out in the next six months and offer features such as remote retrieval of vehicle status, parked vehicle locator and a virtual assistant (Hey Mercedes).
Mercedes-Benz India manufactures passenger luxury cars in Chakan, near Pune, at a factory which was set up in 2009, and the site also plays a key role in production for the company's network in Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
In India, the company sells cars across 94 outlets in 47 cities. Mercedes-Benz has led luxury car sales in India over the last four years, staying ahead of BMW India, Audi India and Jaguar with total sales of 15,538 units in 2018.
“If and when luxury car stores don’t have the traction they have had in the past, then an e-commerce channel is an enabler that could enhance awareness and bring in more customers, says Lalit Choudari, managing director of Infinity Cars.” He said that the hybrid model was becoming more accepted worldwide.