Mercedes’ mut­ters of in­ven­tion

The Advertiser - Motoring - - NEWS - JOHN CAREY

“OUR founders were in­ven­tors of the au­to­mo­bile,” says Di­eter Zetsche, “and we have to con­tinue to rein­vent the au­to­mo­bile.”

It won’t be easy, as the head of Mercedes-Benz knows.

As the pace of tech­no­log­i­cal change quick­ens and am­bi­tious new­com­ers such as Tesla, Google and Ap­ple plan to steal the park­ing spa­ces of es­tab­lished brands, the world’s old­est car maker must be­come faster and more ag­ile.

So Mercedes-Benz is work­ing hard to fu­ture-proof it­self. Zetsche, also chair­man of par­ent com­pany Daim­ler, be­lieves a de­fen­sive strat­egy isn’t an op­tion. “Then we’ll be toast, or his­tory, or what­ever,” he says.

Not every­thing needs to change, he adds. “The next S-Class (still) has to be the best car in the world. And you can’t of­fer it as a beta ver­sion.

“We have to main­tain many of the strengths of our past but at the same time we have to cre­ate this cul­tural am­bi­ence which al­lows us to work in a very dif­fer­ent way.”

Some parts of Daim­ler, which has about 280,000 em­ploy­ees world­wide, have adopted what the ex­ec­u­tive de­scribes as “ba­si­cally the setup of a start-up” and work with a thin­ner cor­po­rate rule book. Com­pany of­fices — in­clud­ing those of Zetsche and his di­rec­tors — and meet­ing places are be­ing grad­u­ally stripped of their doors.

There are eight 16-mem­ber teams work­ing to cre­ate “pro­to­types of a new lead­er­ship model and cul­ture for our com­pany”. The mixed-gen­der teams, drawn from the full spec­trum of the work­force, in­clude two Aus­tralians.

The groups, which col­lab­o­rate vir­tu­ally, will meet face-to-face for the first time next month to merge their work into one, maybe two, pro­to­types to present to the board.

“We want to know from them how we should work in fu­ture,” says Zetsche.

Mean­while, the com­pany needs to keep pro­duc­ing mod­els to main­tain its hard-earned sta­tus as an in­dus­try leader.

Zetsche notes Tesla’s lead in elec­tric cars and the suc­cess of boss Elon Musk in build­ing a mar­ket for its ex­pand­ing prod­uct line-up. “Elon is an ab­so­lute mas­ter­mind as far as pub­lic­ity is con­cerned,” says Zetsche. “He has, over time, promised a lot, de­liv­ered much if not most of it. He is of­fer­ing a pack­age which none of us has.”

Zetsche con­firms Mercedes is work­ing on a car to take on Tesla — “We will be able to of­fer ranges of 400km or 500km as well, in the not so far fu­ture” — and says spe­cific de­tails are com­ing “very soon”.

Mercedes will keep de­vel­op­ing au­ton­o­mous driv­ing tech­nol­ogy. Given its po­ten­tial to re­duce road deaths, it’s a good fit with the com­pany’s long-term em­pha­sis on safety.

Zetsche cites his com­pany’s ad­van­tages over in­dus­try new­com­ers. “The de­vel­op­ment of a car is mak­ing the best com­pro­mises,” he says.

“Com­pro­mise is not a nice word. You don’t want to tell your cus­tomer that their car has any com­pro­mises but you have to de­liver on many tar­gets which are to some ex­tent in con­flict. That’s ... where ex­pe­ri­ence helps.”

Benzz bossss Di­iet­terr Zettss­c­che:: ”” We haave tto rrei­in­ventt tthe aaut­to­mo­bi­ille””

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.