The seventh episode of the Autofocus Podcast gives you insights into the luxury automotive segment through the experience and no-nonsense approach of Frank Bernthaler, CEO of Emirates Motor Company. Emirates Motor Company is the Mercedes-Benz Authorized Distributor in the Abu Dhabi since 1962, and was recognized as the #1 market in CSI for Mercedes-Benz Cars in the GCC from 2013-2017. Frank has spent 30 years in the automotive industry, and is a long-term member of the Mercedes-Benz family.
In this podcast, Frank shares his views on a variety of hot topics: the evolution of the industry, long-term partnerships between automakers, the distribution-retail chain, and the dilemma of changing consumer sensibilities.
A few minutes into the conversation, Frank eloquently describes how Mercedes-Benz’s brand has evolved, from being widely regarded as a brand for older people to one for those who want the best at any age. Frank Bernthaler was a witness to the change, and lends an intriguing perspective to the story.
The automobile market has evolved from the day where a handful of brands served the global market to new players springing up across the globe offering cars and mobility in every imaginable configuration. And the complexity of the way the business is run has increased exponentially.
This means the modern customer is becoming less loyal to a brand and more perceptive of value. In the old days, a buyer would make four to five visits to a brand’s showroom before finalizing a purchase. The modern consumer is well-researched and only needs an average of 1.2 visits to a dealership to settle for a car. How do you tackle the new kind of customer expects more of you and is not willing to put up with the best practices of the old days?
There were times in the 1990s when buyers had to wait a long before they could drive home in their own Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Such times clearly do not exist anymore, so taking a business forward in such a scenario would take a paradigm shift in the approach to customer experience. Frank has some interesting advice to offer in this situation.
"Companies that were competing with each other on a daily basis over decades are suddenly joining forces." – Frank Bernthaler, CEO of Emirates Motor Company
The New Dynamics of The Industry
Speaking about shifting trends, Frank highlights how we are witnessing new alliances and new partnerships emerge, both within the industry and with new players outside on a global scale. Big brands are investing in startups, legacy products are being merged with new-age innovations, traditional competitors are now becoming best friends, etc.
When it comes to sales in our region, Frank is very clear on one thing, we need to accept that there is a new ‘normal’ when it comes to purchase of new cars and the days of record sales witnessed from 2011 to 2015 won’t come back in the same form.
What should brands do to adapt to this new ‘normal’? We have to run lean operations and manage our business effectively, while exploring and adopting new business models.
What about CASE?
Finally, the future is clearly autonomous, connected, electric, and shared. Customer data is a pivotal tool to understand and act upon future trends and Frank talks about how dealers and brands can share data to learn more about the customers. However, with the advent of connected cars, all parties involved will automatically have access to customer data leading to much deeper analysis and utilisation of this data.
Frank has a wealth of knowledge and interesting views on the past and the future. This episode of Autofocus is intriguing, eye-opening, and a must-read must-watch must-listen for people who want to understand the new landscape of the regional automotive industry.