London – Mercedes-Benz Middle East CEO Mark De Haes announced that the company is now technically capable of producing autonomous cars and has conducted the first autonomous drive in the region between Dubai and Abu Dhabi last November.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Mercedes-Benz is waiting for the appropriate legal framework and infrastructure that allow the use of the new technology.
Mercedes-Benz “is the No.1 premium automotive brand in the world,” De Haes said.
He disclosed that the company is all set to launch “more than eight models” in the region this year. One of those is the E-Class Cabriolet, which will be launched in the region in the last quarter of 2017.
When asked whether Mercedes-Benz was the top premium car seller in the region, De Haes said that automotive brands in the region do not disclose their sales data, which makes it difficult for all manufacturers to determine where they and their competitors stand in the market.
“However, given our robust reputation and visibility on the road, we can confidently say that Mercedes-Benz is in a strong position regionally,” he added.
“Customers not only respect our brand, but also love it, and this connection is transferred from generation to generation.”
“We are confident that we will maintain our leadership position in the future, thanks to our wide portfolio that suits each individual’s needs and desires, our focus on the customer experience and the great support from our partners in the region,” he added.
As to the company’s performance in Gulf Cooperation Council countries, De Haes cited economic correlation in terms of consumer-product industry.
“In any country or region around the globe, there is a direct correlation between economic growth and the consumer-product industry, including the automotive industry,” he explained.
“The evolving economic landscape has had an effect on the consumer-product industries,” he added.
“However, we were extremely lucky that our portfolio has expanded at the right time and this has supported our performance in the region. This will help Mercedes-Benz maintain its position as the top premium car brand in the region.”
Elaborating on the future of the new models, De Haes said that the company adheres to a vigorous approach with high prospects lying ahead.
Commenting on the company’s vision, he said: “It is a dynamic one. We are launching more than eight models in the region, with the E-Class Coupé the most recent model to debut.”
Other models to be launched this year include the Mercedes-AMG E 63 4MATIC, the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+, the new GLA, the Mercedes-AMG GT R, the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster, the new E-Class Cabriolet, the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, the big-shot CEO added.
De Haes revealed that the E-Class Cabriolet will be available in the Middle East in the fourth quarter of this year.
“Our E-Class models are highly sought after in the region, so we expect it will be in high demand.”
“As with our E-Class Coupé, the E-Class Cabriolet is developed with our philosophy of ‘The Best or Nothing’ in mind — delivering the highest quality of performance, alongside state-of-the-art technology and design,” De Haes concluded.
As for introducing new power-trains and autonomous driving features to new models in the region, De Haes said that the company continues to “push boundaries.”
“We are constantly pushing boundaries when it comes to autonomous driving and we are already working toward this goal both at the global and regional levels,” he said.
“Last November, we conducted the first-ever automated drive on the E11 highway from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in an E-Class, which was the first of its kind in the Middle East.”
“As a first step toward autonomous driving, our new E-Class sets the stage with its ‘intelligent Drive Next Level’ system. The vehicle is able to warn the driver of an imminent collision, provide optimum support with emergency braking and, if necessary, also autonomously apply the brakes.”
On a global level, Mercedes-Benz is leading the way when it comes to autonomous driving, and in reality, it already has the technical capability to implement this technology today.
Nevertheless, De Haes said that Mercedes can only introduce fully autonomous vehicles to the general public once legal frameworks and appropriate infrastructure allow the use of the technology.
Recently, Mercedes-Benz had a recent international recall. De Haes said that it also affected the Middle East.
“All affected customers in our region are being informed by the General Distributors of Mercedes-Benz. The necessary rework to install an additional fuse is being carried out by Daimler AG during a one-hour workshop visit at no cost to the customer,” he said.