The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] 'Shift to EVs is happening much faster than we think'

Mercedes-Benz makes up 5 in 10 bestselling import EVs in Korea

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : April 2, 2023 - 13:18

    • Link copied

Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Thomas Klein (Mercedes-Benz Korea) Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Thomas Klein (Mercedes-Benz Korea)

The swap to electric vehicles from cars equipped with internal combustion engines is happening much faster than we think, and EVs will eventually replace traditional cars, Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Thomas Klein says.

“I believe, sorry to say, the internal combustion engine is dead. The energy efficiency of that compared to electric engine is unfortunately not very good, and the one thing that we will all be short of is sustainable energy,” said Klein in an interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday at the 2023 Seoul Mobility Show held at Kintex in Gyeonggi Province.

“We look at, for example, our current strategy that from 2025 onwards every new platform we introduce will be electric only. That means some of the cars you see out there, you can hug (goodbye) because it’s the last version of the combustion engine vehicle,” he said, referring to the vehicles with internal combustion engines on display at the brand’s exhibition booth.

The Mercedes-Benz global headquarters have laid out the ambitious goal of going all-electric in 2030.

Mercedes-Benz Korea sold 80,976 units last year, the most ever for an auto importer in a year, and edged out BMW Korea by a slight margin to take the top spot for the seventh consecutive year among the foreign automakers in the country.

BMW, however, has so far sold over 4,000 units more than Mercedes-Benz in the first two months in Korea this year. Klein did not seem to be fazed about the early numbers. Rather, he voiced confidence in the direction the company is heading.

“Every brand occasionally has to decide what kind of game they want to play and what strategy they want to pursue. As I have said, we have definitely departed from a purely volume-based strategy. As long as we achieve our strategic targets in terms of addressing the luxury value-oriented strategy we have laid out, whether we are number one or number two or number three doesn’t really matter to me,” said Klein.

The CEO pointed out that 25 percent of the vehicles sold by the German carmaker in February were S-Class units, adding that the company is on track with its own strategic goals. He also underscored that 5 in 10 bestselling EVs by auto importers in Korea were from Mercedes-Benz.

Noting that Korea has become the second-biggest Maybach market and the third-biggest S-Class market in the world during his tenure at the Korean office over the past two years, Klein unveiled the plan to build the world’s first and only Mercedes-Maybach brand center in Korea.

The global headquarters have approved Korea getting the first ever Maybach brand center of its kind, Klein said. "We invested together with our partners in the AMG brand center two years ago, which was well received. So you can see that the fine understanding that Koreans have and the big demand for luxury products allow us to make the investment," he added.

The company did not disclose further details about where or when the Maybach brand center will open. It explained that the world’s only Maybach-dedicated brand center will offer visitors a chance to have a full experience of the German automaker’s top-end lineup.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the German brand’s establishment of its Korean office. Korea has become the fourth-largest market by country for the global automaker.