The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Mercedes-Benz focused on ‘great brand experience’

Korean chief hints at expanding high-power charging network in EV push

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : March 21, 2024 - 17:02

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Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Mathias Vaitl speaks to reporters from the Korea Automobile Journalists Association in Seoul on Wednesday. (Mercedes-Benz Korea) Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Mathias Vaitl speaks to reporters from the Korea Automobile Journalists Association in Seoul on Wednesday. (Mercedes-Benz Korea)

Mercedes-Benz was dethroned by BMW as the top auto importer in South Korea last year for the first time since 2015. Despite the quantitative loss, Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Mathias Vaitl says the focus is to offer a great brand experience for the customers.

“Our strategy is not to be No. 1 here in the market,” said Vaitl in an interview with reporters from the Korea Automobile Journalists Association at the Korean office of Mercedes-Benz in Seoul on Wednesday.

“We are the strongest brand here in the market, proven by many studies and we always want to uplift that … We are quite honored and satisfied that we are so successful here in the market, and that our customers love the Mercedes-Benz brand and value our high-quality products. Customer experience and excitement, that’s what we focus on.”

According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association’s data, Mercedes-Benz sold 76,697 vehicles in the Korean market last year, just 698 less than the German rival brand’s figure. Mercedes-Benz took up 28.3 percent of the total market share among the auto importers here.

Although the overall electric vehicle market dwindled last year as the EV transition has slowed across the globe, Mercedes-Benz Korea sold 9,182 EVs in 2023, a big leap from 5,006 units sold in 2022, according to local auto market research firm Carisyou.

“The (EV) trend at the moment and last year was a little bit dropping,” said Vaitl.

“The total market in Korea was a minus whereas we went up by 80 percent and we will follow the customer demand, so we have to balance that in the right level … In Korea, we want to be well prepared because Korea is faster, so you need to be very agile.”

Underlining the expected launches of the EQA and EQB facelifted models, the Mercedes-Maybach EQS top-end sports utility vehicle and the G-Wagen equipped with EQ technology in Korea throughout this year, the CEO said the introduction of new EVs featuring the German automakers’ latest technology will help the automaker in boosting sales.

“One thing we learned not only here in Korea but around the globe (is that) once our customers are driving the EQ cars, they don’t want to change back,” he said.

“They love it and actually it’s the same for me. I also (have been driving) the EQS for two years, and I don’t want to drive anything else.”

As for the German automaker’s efforts to expand its charging network in Korea, the CEO said Mercedes-Benz will start investing in building up charging points this year.

“The key differentiator is high-performance charging,” he said.

“We are very committed and fully invested in high-performance charging because that’s what you need when you travel. We are also even looking into AC and DC charging.”

Vaitl began his tenure in Korea as the CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea on Sept. 1. Since joining the German automaker as a dealer network business manager in the Czech Republic in 2005, he has experienced various positions such as digital services, after-sales, sales and product management as well as customer services in China and at the headquarters in Germany.