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Mercedes-Benz insists it’s committed to Korea

Jan 15,2020
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Dimitris Psillakis, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea, shares the company’s plans in southern Seoul, on Tuesday. [MERCEDES-BENZ]
After a record year, Mercedes-Benz Korea will not reduce its head count or investment in the local market despite an initiative by the parent company to cut back.

President & CEO Dimitris Psillakis acknowledged the rapid transformation in the auto industry and the efforts ongoing in other regions to increase efficiency but added this will not happen in Korea.

“I can tell you very clearly that we have no plans of reducing people in Korea,” he said Tuesday in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.

“On the contrary, we will continue investing in whatever we need to keep our service level and our customer satisfaction and continue our development of technologies and collaborations happening so far.”

Daimler, its parent company, announced in November that Mercedes-Benz was seeking more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in personnel cost reductions annually by the end of 2022 with an aim to boost research and development investment in eco-friendly vehicles. Ten percent of the existing workforce will be cut.

The Korean unit’s confidence in the local business is supported by strong sales figures. Mercedes-Benz Korea sold a total of 78,133 vehicles in 2019, a record high and up 10.4 percent. This made it the best-selling import car brand for four years straight.

This year, the German carmaker will introduce nine entirely new models and face-lift six models, including its best-selling E-Class sedan. Mercedes-Maybach will also release its first SUV in Korea this year.

The company released a safety test vehicle, the Experimental Safety Vehicle, for the first time in Korea. Based on the new GLE, the company’s electric SUV released last year, the vehicle uses a variety of new technologies.

One feature briefly demonstrated Tuesday was the vehicle calling out “be careful” as Psillakis went near it.

In terms of local contributions, Mercedes-Benz has been exploring ways to support the growth of local start-ups. Its first project last year under the initiative was the “Connected Car Startup Hackathon” in December. The carmaker is currently engaging in a long-term project with the No.1 winning team to commercialize its idea. The second- and third-ranking winners will pitch their ideas at “Startup Autobahn,” a competition hosted by Daimler.

“As a part of our efforts to lead the future of mobility, we will endeavor to contribute to the Korean economy by discovering Korean start-ups with a global platform,” the president said.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]