What is happening with Mercedes-Benz USA these days? This question was raised after Mercedes-Benz, like Cadillac, was noticeably absent from the Washington Auto Show floor this year.
MBUSA continues to grow and bring new and updated models to market, continuing to meet sales goals even in a softening market. Now housed out of a new U.S.-headquarters, the company continues to be on the leading edge of technology.
Tobias Moers New York International Auto Show 2019 GWagen // Photo Credit: William West Hopper
Auto Shows and Tightened Budgets
With consumers increasingly buying by a click on the screen of a smartphone, tablet, or computer, the lure of the annual auto show is no longer enough to return for the big dollar investments that automakers put out. More focus is being placed on social media and direct consumer experience events and interactive marketing with wide-ranging appeal and contact. Have you noticed when you respond to an automotive marketing outreach, a dealer almost immediately contacts you? Getting consumers interested in products and putting them in touch with dealers as soon as possible has become the business model of choice.
Daimler and Mercedes-Benz have rethought the auto show model, along with other manufacturers who are also starting to step away from even the big shows like Detroit. At this year’s New York International Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz had a toned-down presence in comparison to years past. With plenty of vehicles on display, the pomp and circumstance were noticeably reduced. In speaking to MBUSA’s public relations department, the Washington, D.C. market continues to be a very important one for the brand, and the region’s buying power is an important one. It is expected they will return to the auto show, just not in the format we have seen in the past.
Dietmar Exler _ President and CEO of MBUSA and NAFTA __ Photo Credit_ William West Hopper
Models and both EV and ICE Powertrains
The German Government is investing in the electrification of all transport modes through incentives in R&D, procurement and charging infrastructure. Thus, German automakers have made electrification of vehicles a specific focus, be it hybrid, battery electric, or any combination of them along with the internal combustion engine (ICE). No matter the powertrain or the model, you will find equal amounts of attention paid to the technology that goes into them from the Smart EQ to the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury – an over the top SUV concept.
Do not think for a moment that Mercedes-Benz will retreat from high-performance vehicles. These days high horsepower internal combustion powered vehicles bring with them high profit. Thus, AMG and Maybach vehicles will still be a major market focus. This year alone we have already seen a new version of the G-Wagen for 2019, both a G-550 and a G-63AMG, as well as a lineup of E and C Class vehicles including the AMG E53 and C43 and 63. The AMG GT 63 S and others continue to show the commitment to daily driving vehicles as well as ones you will want to drive just for the enjoyment of the road.
MBUSA Atlanta Headquarters __ Photo courtesy of MBUSA Media
New American headquarters for MBUSA
MBUSA recently relocated from New Jersey to the suburban Atlanta, Georgia. Many speculated this was done to reduce costs and take advantage of tax incentives. While this was no doubt a factor, being closer to the American factory in Alabama, and recently opened Sprinter van production facility in South Carolina also had much to do with the decision. Another factor is their focus on research and development here in the USA – not only in California but now in Georgia with a soon-to-open Lab1886 location.
MBUSA is now housed in a steel and glass 200,000 square-foot building, located on a 12-acre campus. Housing more than 1,000 employees and is designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient. MBUSA has implemented initiatives as part of their commitment to sustainability, bike racks, twenty EV Charging stations as well as dedicated MARTA shuttle to help reduce traffic impact in an area that is already heavily congested.
Daimler will open the fourth Lab1886 in Atlanta this summer joining three existing locations in Beijing, Berlin, and Stuttgart. MBUSA feels that with Atlanta’s excellent colleges and universities offering highly skilled and motivated graduates, and that more and more innovative technology and digital companies make their home in Atlanta, it is a perfect match for Mercedes-Benz’s own incubator.
Mercedes-Benz is actively adapting to an ever-changing transportation market. Be it selling C-Classes, AMG’s, Sprinter and Metris vans, or with the growth Daimler’s Car2Go car-sharing platform that offers Smart and Mercedes-Benz vehicles on demand. Providing users with a car only and exactly when they need one. Expect to see Mercedes-Benz continue to work beyond traditional transportation.
Words & Images by William West Hopper
Past MBCA|GWS President,
MBCA Eastern Regional Director,
MBCA National Director and National Treasurer
For more Mercedes-Benz insight and images, follow William West Hopper on Twitter (@wwhopper) and Instagram (DCCarGuy)!
While you are behind the wheel of your SUV, you look over and see someone driving a great car, and say to yourself, “One Day?” That day could today with a local club. You can make that exotic car dream drive a reality.
Yes, you could be behind the wheel of any number of supercars for about the yearly lease costs of a luxury car. Without all the hassle of insurance, maintenance, and trying to fit it into your garage. Someone could toss you the keys then you are behind the wheel for a day, a weekend, or more. Better yet, when you tire of that ride, you can choose another one, and be off on another adventure.
Arlington VA startup Drive Society can make such a dream come true. Be it a two-seater Mercedes-Benz AMG GT or a practical though still exotic sedan, like the Tesla S. Maybe you have a hankering for a classic American Muscle car, how about driving a ’69 Camaro or maybe a Ferrari 458 Italia? These are just a few of the current stable in Drive Society’s nearby garage.
Drive Society has developed a membership club where you purchase points which allow you to use them towards a day or more of driving any one of their nine exotic cars. And as a Drive Society Member, you get to be part of the group decision-making process of what the next car the club buys next.
You purchase a set number of points at levels from $2000 for 60 points, up to $12,000 for 400 points. Each car is valued in a specific number of points to rent for the day, from 6 to 35 points. You spend those points depending on the car you drive. (Note the Ferrari is available only to the upper levels of membership.) Yes, there are some minor restrictions: mileage is limited to 200 miles per day, except on the Ferrari which is 150, and no you cannot take these vehicles to a track day, as all cars are for street use only. So for two grand, you can drive a Porsche for ten days and 1200 miles, or the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT for 3 day and 600 miles. For the first year, if you do not use up all your points, you will incur a $50 per month membership fee.
Insurance for physical damage and supplemental liability is included, your own auto policy covers primary liability while you drive the cars. Garage expenses, Arlington County personal property tax, detailing and maintenance expenses are all covered in the membership. For an additional fee, you can have your car delivered and picked up at the local location of your choice.
Drive Society is a driver’s club, while it was developed for automotive enthusiasts, you don’t have to be a car geek to belong. Perfect for that Dad or Mom who wants to drive a cool car, but does not want to own one every day. Once you become a member, the minimum age to be a member is 28, you can rent a car and also have a say in the vehicles purchased and sold by Drive Society. Member’s business meetings and events are held regularly throughout the year and range from social happy hours (no driving) and trips to go-kart tracks to events designed for you to take out one of the cars, be it at a racetrack to watch a race or an auto festival.
Drive Society has a collection of nine interesting cars. Porsche’s, Tesla’s, a BMW, a classic Chevy, even an AMG and a Ferarri. In talking to Alex Schaffer one of the founding partners he shared that these are not brand-new cars, due to the immediate depreciation costs that new cars (even exotic ones) experience once they roll off the dealer showroom floor. Some are limited production models that were hard to find at dealerships when they were new. Drive Society scours the country looking for great deals on great cars, buying at auction, from private owners and collectors. They bring them back to Arlington and register them in Virginia.
Alexander and Danielle Schaffer, a husband, and wife team with young children founded Drive Society after both working in federal contracting positions with Information Technology companies. Following Alex’s passion for Sports Car Club of America – SCCA racing, the two of them have developed Drive Society filling a niche of supporting a passion that people have for automobiles. Taking the car sharing, exotic car rental and fractional auto ownership business model to the next level. While car clubs are often formed with members who own individual cars, this provides members who may not have the opportunity to own dream cars to actually have use of cars they would never own outright. Sharing the expenses and responsibilities with other members, as well as the fun of driving them.
You can find more about Drive Society either in person at any one of the Washington DC area automotive gatherings or online at their website. If you are an automotive enthusiast or just interested in the concept, I would suggest talking to Danielle and Alex in person and seeing the cars that Drive Society manages yourself sometime soon. You can find them at local events like Katies Cars and Coffee, or Carsfera Auto Festival, and other events nearby.
The C43 4MATIC Cabriolet priced out at $66,965 with Premium 2 package and a few other goodies. My first impression behind the wheel was that it was very tight, especially on roughly paved roads. My only complaint was with the unbelted right passenger seat belt which flapped in the wind with the top down. Once that was taken care of, there was pure bliss in driving the topless coupe. Plenty of power, a very well appointed interior, and comfortable. For a C-Class, it seemed quite roomy inside, though the trunk did lose space compared to the C-300 Coupe.
S550 Cabriolet, which from a quick glance is hard to tell from the C-Class. Once inside you appreciate the larger cabin, no question this is the flagship of the Mercedes-Benz line with the appointments that only the S-Class offers. The being one of the exclusive design models it commands a $161,675 price tag, with optional Swarovski Crystal Headlamp accents a $1,750 option, as well as other more mundane ones like the Sport Package with lots of decorative body styling details, and warmth and comfort package featuring heated steering wheel and front center and door arm rests, something special to keep you warm on the crisp fall days.
While these two Cabiros are similarly styled, they are appointed differently, and behind the wheel, you feel the difference in their size. As expected the smaller C-Class handled nimbly, and the heavier S-Class, you felt the weight of a full size car. The S-Class is still quick to respond, both to steering and acceleration input, there was no question it is a heavier road car.
The C63 S AMG Coupe is a bit of both, the size of the C-Class, though the AMG’s muscular lines expand the C-Coupe in a good way. The bi-turbo 4.0 L V-8 engine puts a lot of power through the 7-speed automatic transmission with touch shift. This car has power that you hear through the growl of the exhaust and feel as you drive. And indeed it is heavier than the C300 or C43, though still as nimble as its lower powered cousins. The C63 S AMG Coupe starts at $75K, we did not have a sales sticker to see exactly how the one we drove was priced with options and destination fees.
C43 Cabrio was the best all-around car for the money out of the bunch, power, luxury, comfort and all the bells and whistles you could want at an affordable price. While there was not a price sticker on the C63S AMG Coupe, with the full race track ready AMG aspects of it, no doubt put the price higher than the $75K base price of that model. And a ONE hundred and sixty-six thousand-dollar S-Coupe Cabrio, seems excessive, as nice as it was, gp for the less costly C43 and bank the other hundred grand.
Words and images (unless otherwise noted) are by William West Hopper
At first look, you will do a double take: Is this Mercedes-Benz’s top-of-the-line luxury coupe? The lines flow elegantly from the hood to the trunk, Check! The long hood and sloping roof line, Check! Muscular rear haunches and slippery, sexy looking trunk, Check!
The 2017 C-Class Coupe is similar to the full size S-Class Coupe, but with more approachable proportions. The diamond grill, which became popular with the entry-level CLA, is the key design feature that differentiates the two.
Mercedes-Benz hopes that a coupe version of it’s biggest selling model, the mass-market C-Class, will appeal to a wider audience, a younger audience, one not needing extra doors, but still looking for all the safety, technology, and great design that the brand is so well-known for.
While the US government classifies the C-Coupe as a sub-compact, is four inches longer, and three inches wider than the previous generation. While the exterior of this high-strength, steel-reinforced cabin, complete with a panoramic sunroof, is impressive, it is inside where the driver and passenger benefit most. Similar to the sedan, the coupe has touches that are different. The sound system’s speakers are built into the frame for more bass. Sportier high-back seats feature extendable thigh support, so no matter your height, you are comfortable on long drives in the coupe.The iconic seat belt extenders, once a hallmark of the classic full size S-Coupe, the SEC, hand you your seat belt. Cup holders that will hold 1 liter bottles are larger than before. The dashboard is still round gauges, not flat screens like the S-Coupe.
The center instrument stack provide easy reach to controls for the radio and HVAC. Keyless start and Mbrace are standard. Optional features are many: Heads up display, Burmeister premium surround sound, and Air Balance (just like the S-Coupe), as well as a number of premium packages.
Performance is impressive for
a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbo charged engine, with 241 HP, 273 LP torque, mated to a 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic transmission with DYNAMIC SELECT provides a 5.9 seconds zero to 60 time. Select one of the multiple settings (Eco, Comfort Sport, Sport Plus and Independent,) to adjust engine, steering, and transmission to fit your driving style. While rear-wheel drive is standard, there is a 4MATIC All-Wheel Drive (a $2K option,) that provides additional traction and peace of mind in areas that experience inclement weather. I was pleased with the 28 miles per gallon the 4MATIC equipped model I drove during two days in a mix of city, suburban, and highway driving.
Nimble handling, a hallmark of the
C-Class. While the ride is tight with the standard sport suspension, if you want more control of the softness or sportiness of the ride, order the optional AIRMATIC Air suspension (a $1200 option,.) Eighteen inch wheels are standard, or chose the optional 19” AMG rims. You can also customize the coupe’s appearance with a number of optional packages.
Advanced technology is what the new C-Coupe is all about, providing added safety to the equation in the long list of standard equipment. In addition to the normal Anti lock Brakes, Mercedes-Benz provides Brake Assist System®, Electronic Stability Program®, Attention Assist®, Collision Prevention Assist ®, Pres-Safe, and Adaptive Brake technology. The C-Coupe has LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail lamps as standard. Rear view camera options including surround view, are available. DISTRONIC PLUS with steering assist, lane keep, and speed limit assist, blind spot and pre-safe can all be added to the mix.
For those wanting a drop top or more power, wait until this Fall when the C-Coupe Cabriolet, a C43, and a C63 Coupe with a wide-body option become available. Unlike the C-Class Sedan, the C-Coupe, as well as its engine and transmission is made in the German assembly plants. (The US-sold sedan is made here in the award winning, world-class Alabama factory.) With the C-Coupe, you can take European delivery, which offers the added advantage of a few days in Europe and a chance to experience Mercedes-Benz’s delivery center.
Again Mercedes-Benz provides a
strong value in the ownership of their vehicles. The only downside that I can see is that the $42,600 base price can elevate quickly with a few desirable options to a $60K plus price tag. While the past two generations of C-Coupes have failed to generate market buzz, this one surely will with its elegant and sporty design, as well as a complete cadre of safety features.
Photos and article by:William West Hopper
We are Queer4Cars, not just because we are LGBT! Come celebrate the automotive world through our eyes.