Biggest change - Confidence & Trust
The sales performance of the first half of 2014 provided the whole team of Mercedes-Benz , Beijing, including Nicholas Speeks some relief. “Our outlook is optimistic” - Nicholas Speeks gave a positive comment on his work during his one year and a half term.
The first half of 2014 (January to June), Mercedes-Benz sold 136 thousand automobiles in the Chinese market, a growth of 37.5% over the previous year. Although this figures still trails behind the sales of Audi and BMW, the rapid growth has testified the effects of Nicholas Speeks’s reform in comparison with the consecutive drops in sales one and a half year ago.
Nicholas Speeks came to China in January, 2013, when Mercedes-Benz was undergoing a sensitive time not long from its founding. In March, Nicholas Speeks officially took the place of Klaus Maier and became the president of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co., Ltd.. Two months later, he was reported to send inside emails to his dealers with harsh words in it such as “lazy” and “inaction”.
Mercedes-Benz has always been weak in managing the relationships with its dealers. On one hand, it is due to double line management of domestic vehicles and imported vehicles before this Sales Service Corporation was set up, which led to a severe waste of energy and an unnecessary price confusion which had a detrimental effect on the brand and caused great loss for sales. On the other hand, big dealer Lei Shing Hong Limited’s strong position has triggered an interest game between dealers. It is publicly believed that if Mercedes-Benz finds no way to transform its sales channels, its future development in China may face consequences of its deterioration.
The public are even more concerned about that whether the newcomer - Nicholas Speeks can address this sales channel problem of Mercedes-Benz with his “strong position” as a newcomer.
In the first few months, Nicholas Speeks’ drastic overhaul didn’t have an obvious effect. By the end of the first half of the year 2013, Mercedes-Benz’s sales in China dropped by 0.5% over the previous period of time. However, positive feedbacks started to show due to either the internet expansion plan or the sinking of brand channels and the strategic corporation with dealer group.
Nicholas Speeks told Tencent Auto that dealers’ confidence is largely boosted, “over the past twelve months, we made great progress in our work because of better communication with dealers be being more transparent and honest with each other”. Since this year, two new dealers of Mercedes-Benz open for business every week in China, which provides enough evidence for the dealers’ willingness to work with us.
This frank and outspoken British person can cut the Gordian knot to treat the problem around for years. His secret is to “communicate with dealers with honesty”. He explained that dealers should be treated like a partner. He used the word “marriage” to describe this kind of relationship - “we made the same efforts and investment in the market, and we both try to achieve a commitment that is a bigger success in the market. There will be time for discussion and for disagreements as well. However, the objective remains constant.”
He had a specific example: Mercedes-Benz will present future products to its dealers regularly in order to allow them to feel its engagement in the Chinese market. Moreover, trainings programs for dealers is another important work segment in which Mercedes-Benz is increasing the investment.
Last month, Mercedes-Benz has just ended its training on the latest generation of C-Class. An employee of Mercedes-Benz told Tencent Auto that there were special lectures and introductions for dealers in this training section, including a great deal of information that is even unknown to internal employees. Dealers said they were very interested in trainings of this kind and confident enough in the product.[detail]
Nicholas Speeks
Nicholas Speeks took the office of president & CEO of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co., Ltd.in March 1st, 2013.He is not only in charge of the marketing and sales of imported and domesticated Mercedes-Benz vehicles in China, but is also responsible for the operations in dealers’network, after-sales service, used car market and the promotion of business enterprise customers. Before he took the office, Mr. Nicholas Speeks served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz Japan Co., Ltd and had achieved a great number of remarkable results.Mr. Nicholas Speeks obtained considerable experiences in sales management after working in Daimler AG for 34 years. He was born in London, Britain, joined Daimler AG in 1979 and worked as sales assistant in Mercedes-Benz Britain Co., Ltd. Since 1990, he had been leading the businesses of Mercedes-Benz in Iraq, Kuwait, Viet Nam, Poland, Dubai and other countries successively. Mr Speeks held various positions in Daimler such as salesperson, showroom manager, sales manager, director of Sales & Marketing, CEO of regional market, and finally the CEO of the company.
The New C ClassGLA and CLA


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Hope to form a new setup
Leading Mercedes-Benz on its way of transformation, Nicholas Speeks has a very clear goal that is also a phased goal in his career. “China has the most excellent market in the whole world, which is the main reason for my choice of this place. For me, I will benefit a lot from seeing and feeling these changes. I hope to form a new setup”.
Nicholas Speeks’s strong card is products. By the end of 2015, 13 new modes of vehicles will enter the Chinese market, many of which will be manufactured in large scale in Mercedes-Benz factory in Beijing after expansion of capacity. More modes of vehicles will be manufactured here such as the latest C-Class and GLA, etc.
Talking about the latest C-Class, its segment market is the fiercest battlefield for luxury cars and is also the opportunity market which is likely to have an effect on the market setup. During the first half of 2014, the sales of BMW 3 series vehicles reached 49,000, a growth of 48% over the previous year; Audi sold 50,000 vehicles, a growth of 0.65% compared with a year earlier. The current Mercedes-Benz C-Class vehicles have reached the final phase of production, but its weak sales performance cannot be denied.
However, Nicholas Speeks believes that the latest C-Class will renovate the market setup, “this mode will set a higher standard for vehicles of this level on the body style, the texture of the material used, and the application of advanced technology. We believe C – Class will be a model of cars that will make a difference both for the Chinese market and Mercedes-Benz. We have faith in it to change the setup of the industry.”
Nicholas Speeks also noted that S-Class vehicles were core products for Mercedes-Benz a decade ago, while E-Class was the core.
"In the future, our priority of work is still on the brand promotion." When the positioning of brand is clear, how to let more customers understand the image and core value of different brands is the next key point of Olivier's work and the new project remaining to be studied.
Generation shift will not happen for E-Class until two or two and a half years later. However, Nicholas Speeks has already been preparing for it, “we had many discussions with our head-quarter to inform them the demands of Chinese market and the preferences of Chinese customers. The latest E-Class will be designed to meet the particular demands of Chinese consumers. ”
With an increasing popularity in compact luxury cars, Mercedes-Benz will start the production of GLA in China. It is still under discussion what other modes of vehicles will be produced domestically. In this market segment, Mercedes-Benz has A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA, but it is not rushing into this fight.
Nicholas Speeks is clear about the fact, as he told Tencet Auto, that compact luxury car market will turn into a very important one. But Mercedes-Benz will not become a manufacturer of compact cars, “We will try to tap each market segment. However, as a high-end brand, our priority is all the products instead of a single sign of Mercedes-Benz. We will not lower our prices to offer the market with cheaper cars. We would rather focus on the compact market segment with high-quality requirements, which is also of remarkable significance”.
“The best or nothing” , the brand concept of Mercedes-Benz, can be translated into Chinese as “惟有最好”. Nicholas Speeks explained that “this does not mean that every car of Mercedes-Benz is always the best. Instead, it has demonstrated the aspiration of every worker in Mercedes-Benz and those people that are related to this brand.” He told Tencent Auto that “it is the same in China. We hope Mercedes-Bens will not only be better but also leave its legacy here. This has always been the spirit of Mercedes-Bens.” This may be the original reason why Nicholas Speeks is wholeheartedly dedicated to high-end products and high-end brand.[detail]
Nicholas Speeks Nicholas Speeks Nicholas Speeks Nicholas Speeks


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Exciting Quiz
  • 1

    Tencent Auto: Since Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co., Ltd. was set up, you have made a number of adjustments in relationships with the dealers. Have enough adjustments been made to achieve a phased victory?

    Nicholas Speeks:First of all, our outlook is optimistic due to the many people’s efforts instead my own. To begin with this change, our dealers’ confidence in our brand is largely boosted, which is also the biggest change of all. Besides, this change is wholly represented by the rapid growth of the dealer’s’ network this year.
  • 2

    Tencent Auto: After you took the position, the relationship between Benz and its’ dealers are more close. What is your secret?

    Nicholas Speeks:First of all, we share the same goal, and a definite goal, that is to take root in the Chinese market. Secondly, both the producer and dealers are committed to a bigger success in the market. This commitment is like a marriage in which there will be time for discussion and for disagreements as well. However, the objective remains constant.Thirdly, the dealers, the clients, and we are like a big family, which feels very good.
  • 3

    Tencent Auto: What will be the focus of your future plan?

    Nicholas Speeks: We will further our investment to expand the capacity in BBAC factory where we will also produce automobiles of more diversity. Second of all, we will increase our investment in training. Lastly, we will also pay more attention to service and after sale service.
  • 4

    Tencent Auto: What does the latest generation Mercedes Benz C - Class mean to Beijing Benz Automotive Co. and Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co., Ltd.?

    Nicholas Speeks:We believe C – Class will be a model of cars that will make a difference both for the Chinese market and Mercedes-Benz. We have faith in it to change the setup of the industry.
  • 5

    Tencent Auto: Do you have any hobbies in your spare time?

    Nicholas Speeks:I like mountain climbing and hiking. However, I really don't have much free time. So I prefer to spend it with my family, and at the same time I also hope to see more of this great country of China. If you are really interested in asking a personal question, you can ask me what is the particular thing that I cannot live without. The answer is hope.


Honest+ Wise






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Editor's Note
Dieter Zetsche made the right choice.
  Employees at Mercedes-Benz told me that Nicholas Speeks has a very high standard towards his work and can always point out the root of a problem precisely. This is likely the reason why he can send out the harsh critical email. Despite many critical voices, only a strict and straightforward person like Speeks can cure the very sick Mercedes-Benz.
  As a fan of Mercedes-Benz, I’m actually very afraid that the century-old brand will lower itself to fit the trend of the market under the pressure of sales. Luckily, Speeks has the same view.
 From a bystander’s perspective, Speeks is facing a very difficult challenge according to objective analysis of the current situation of Mercedes-Benz. The growth in sales of Luxury cars has slowed down, while second class brands rush into the market, lowering the prices. How can Mercedes-Benz keep its principle of being “the best or nothing” will rely on the future performance of Nicholas Speeks.
  According to my outline of questions, personal hobby is a required one. Nicholas Speeks told me if I was really interested in asking a personal question, I should ask him “what is the particular thing that you cannot live without?” “The answer is hope.”
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