New CEO take the wheel at Mercedes-Benz

Steve’s breakdown: We love it when an ex-marketing director takes the CEO chair. And this one is high social media so expect some changes with the advertising account.

MONTVALE, NJ: You may recall an October 2011 column right here in which Steve Cannon, the vice-president of Marketing for Mercedes-Benz, was the principal speaker at the College of Charleston’s School of Business.

Mercedes-Benz is “cued into Gen Y and social media,“ in the words of Steve Cannon. This unbiased columnist described Cannon as “one of the most energetic, charismatic and, not surprisingly, enthusiastic auto execs.”

Well, the top brass at Mercedes-Benz obviously agree: Steve

Cannon has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer of Mercedes-Benz USA.

“I have the real luxury of coming into a highly functioning organization. You could not say that five years ago,” said Cannon, who left in 2000 and rejoined Mercedes-Benz in 2007 after consulting in e-business and a stint with an outside advertising firm.

Automotive News, which supplied the above quote added, “A former U.S. Army Lieutenant who was stationed in Germany and is fluent in German, Cannon is a fitness buff known for his early arrivals at the office. He has nine children.”

Cannon takes the helm as Mercedes-Benz prepares to launch a range of small vehicles in the U. S. market to attract young buyers. The new generation of A-and B-class vehicles will begin to arrive in two years.

Cannon is well situated to introduce small cars, having devoted so much research and development of the Y Generation, which includes 18-34 year-olds. That group would appear well positioned to receive smaller and supposedly lower-priced products from Mercedes-Benz.

The Wall Street Journal says, “Mercedes wants vehicles to introduce younger drivers to the brand. The average age of U.S. Mercedes drivers is 53, four years older than their BMW and Audi counterparts, according to researcher J. D. Power and Associates.

“Young buyers not only broaden the customer base, they often trade up eventually to more expensive models.”

Small cars will be essential to meeting tougher emission standards coming in Europe and here in the U. S. “Without small cars it becomes very tough, especially for the German luxury makers, whose bigger, high-octane car sales drive up their fleet-average emissions,” said Tim Urquhart, an analyst at researcher IHS Automotive in London.

Mark Rechtin, an Automotive News reporter, reports from Germany, “Mercedes-Benz has developed a four-cylinder engine family that will power the upcoming A-, B- and C-class lineups in the United States.

“Ranging from 1.6 to 2.0 liters, the turbocharged gasoline direct injection engine could offer torque ranging from 185 to 260 lbs-ft depending on displacement. “We’re talking horsepower equivalent to high-displacement V-6 engines but with four-cylinder fuel economy,” said Bernard Heil, Daimler AG vice-president of power train development.

The four cylinder debuts in the United States in the mid-cycle revision of the C-class now at dealerships.

The WSJ adds, “To broaden its small-car appeal, Mercedes-Benz has loaded the more sleekly designed B-class vehicles with Internet access, iPod connectivity, a radar-controlled prevention system and other high-end gadgetry that until now was reserved for its bigger, more expensive models, such as the S-class.

“It has lowered its production costs with new front-wheel drive that will be used across the entire small-car range and more shared technology with its larger model segments.”

Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche acknowledged the smaller cars could be tricky to sell. “There is perhaps in the U.S. a somewhat smaller openness to premium compact cars,” he said, though pointing to Mini’s relatively strong U.S. sales as evidence of the potential.

Never fear, Dieter. Based on Steve Cannon’s presentation at The School of Business, it appears the company has made the correct decision in promoting an executive ‘from within’ to lead the introduction of Mercedes-Benz small cars in America.

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