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商业 - 汽车

梅塞德斯-奔驰意在东方

Alex Taylor III 2011年06月24日

多年来,梅赛德斯奔驰一直在努力维持其全球汽车业霸主的地位,这一即将到来的变化将对雄心勃勃的奔驰产生重大而深远的影响。

    通用汽车公司(General Motors)去年经历了一大变化:中国超过美国,成为其全球最大的市场。梅塞德斯(Mercedes)很快会面临同样的变化;而且,当这一变化当真来临时,其产生的影响也会深远得多。

    作为全线产品汽车厂商,通用汽车销售的车辆中,从高端的别克(Buick)到低端的、在韩国生产的雪佛兰(Chevrolet)品牌微型汽车,各种价位应有尽有。在中国,该公司还销售专为中国用户设计的汽车,并取得了成功。

    定价方面,低端奔驰(Benz)在中国的销售价格与高端别克持平,中端、高端产品的价格则要高出许多。其定价是通用汽车产品的数倍。此外,梅塞德斯公司在中国销售的产品与世界其他地区并无任何不同,从M-class SUV(运动型多用途汽车)和SL双座敞蓬轿车,到旗舰产品S-class轿车,无一例外。因此,如果梅塞德斯在中国的汽车销量超过了德国和美国,那无异于一场震撼世界的巨变。同时也说明,中国不仅是世界上最大的汽车市场,而且也是最为富有的市场。

    本周二,戴姆勒集团(Daimler)董事会主席蔡澈在纽约对记者表示,2015年,中国将超过德国和美国,成为梅塞德斯最大的市场。

    我们没有任何理由质疑蔡澈的话。最近,梅塞德斯在中国的销量增长迅猛:2010年翻了一番,达到14.84万辆;2011年首季,又继续增长了86%。此外,今年第一季度,其旗舰产品S-class汽车的销量亦增长了25%,而且其在中国的销量超过了其他所有国家。根据市场研究机构J.D. Power and Associates公司的数据,在中国的超豪华SUV汽车市场,梅塞德斯亦担当着重要角色,在定价超过15.4万美元的汽车的总销量中,梅塞德斯即占据了19%的份额。

    增长速度如此惊人,梅塞德斯必须开足马力才能满足市场需求。现在,每隔七天梅赛德斯就会新增一名经销商。

    这一巨变将如何改变梅塞德斯?蔡澈坚持认为,奔驰必须始终体现德国工艺与品牌价值,因为这是梅塞德斯对客户的承诺。话虽如此,尽管中国客户的需求可能与梅塞德斯公司的认识有所不同,但照样会引起重视。

    现在,梅塞德斯已经开始对其汽车的后座厢的大小予以特别关注,原因在于中国豪华车用户往往自己不开车,而是拥有专职司机。而且,出于同样的原因,该公司开始生产长轴距汽车,以提供较大的后座空间,让乘客可以舒服地伸展双腿。

    中国市场对戴姆勒公司的其他决策亦产生重大影响。该公司已与中国的汽车电池制造商比亚迪(BYD)联手,生产专供中国市场的电动车。这家合资企业既拥有戴姆勒公司在电动车架构方面的专业技能,又秉承了比亚迪公司对电池技术和电子驱动系统的深刻理解。

    此项合作立即得到了中国政府的支持,他们已定购了10万部这种电动车。

    戴姆勒并未将其所有替代性汽车燃料的鸡蛋放到电力驱动这一个篮子里。蔡澈透露,到“2015年、2016年”,梅塞德斯将推出一款燃料电池汽车。尽管过去20年里,生产只需灌水即可开动的氢动力燃料电池汽车始终是众汽车厂商的梦想,但上市时间却一拖再拖。通用汽车一直承诺,到2010年推出可销售的样车,但始终未能兑现。早在通用之前,蔡澈的前任史瑞普也曾承诺,会推出梅塞德斯燃料电池汽车2004,但这款车从未离开实验室走向市场。

    由于氢燃料补给基础设施的匮乏,这类车销量不会太大。蔡澈希望,重新设定燃料电池汽车的推出时间会激励其他厂商加入到制造此类车的行列中来。他说:“这类车的问题是基础设施不足。”

    为了进一步扩充自己的电动车配件,戴姆勒在电动汽车厂商特斯拉汽车公司(Tesla Motors)一直占有10%的股份。蔡澈表示,梅塞德斯将在电动的Smart汽车中使用特斯拉公司的电池。

    蔡澈坚信,尽管汽车行业曾被讥为成夕阳产业,但现在以其5%~6%的年度生产增长率,它理应被列入朝阳产业。而中国市场和电动车正是他坚持这一认识的两个原因。125年前,梅塞德斯发明了汽车这一交通工具,今天其产品定价仍然远高于竞争对手。蔡澈的目标是继续保持梅塞德斯在汽车王国的霸主地位。

    译者:大海

    For General Motors, the change came last year -- China passed the U.S. as the automaker's single largest market. For Mercedes, that time is fast approaching -- and when it does, it will be far more consequential.

    As a full-line producer, GM (GM, Fortune 500) is selling a range of vehicles, starting at the top with Buick and working its way all the way down the price scale to tiny subcompacts made in Korea and branded as Chevrolets. It succeeds in China by selling cars tailored for the Chinese.

    Pricewise, the Benz's on sale in China start where Buick stops and go up from there -- way up. They sell for multiples of what GM's cars go for. Moreover, Mercedes sells the same products in China that it does all over the globe -- from M-class SUVs and SL roadsters to flagship S-class sedans. For Mercedes to sell more of these cars to the Chinese than to the Germans or Americans would represent a seismic shift. It would certify China as not only the world's largest market -- but also its richest.

    Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche told reporters in New York on Tuesday that China would pass Germany and the U.S. to become Mercedes's largest market in 2015.

    There is no reason to doubt him. Mercedes's sales in China have been on fire recently, having doubled in 2010 to 148,400 and jumped another 86% in the first quarter of 2011. Sales of the flagship S-class, more of whose buyers inhabit China than in any other country, rose 25% in the first quarter. Mercedes is also a key player in China's super-luxury SUV market, with 19% of sales for vehicles costing more than $154,000, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

    With that kind of mind-boggling growth, Mercedes is scrambling to keep up with demand. It is adding as many as one new dealership every seven days.

    How will this enormous shift change things at Mercedes? Zetsche insists that Benz must always embody German engineering and brand values because that is part of the manufacturer's promise to the Mercedes customer. Yet the demands of Chinese customers that don't necessarily align with the wisdom of Stuttgart will inevitably make themselves felt.

    Mercedes is already paying more attention to the rear-seating compartment of its cars, since Chinese luxury car owners typically have drivers, rather than drive themselves. It is adding long-wheel-base models that provide more rear-seat legroom for the same reason.

    China is having a big impact on other corporate decisions as well. Daimler has joined up with Chinese battery maker BYD to build electric vehicles for the Chinese market. The joint venture will benefit from both Daimler AG's expertise in electric vehicle architecture and BYD's firm grasp on battery technology and e-drive systems.

    The deal got an immediate endorsement from the Chinese government, which has ordered 100,000 cars.

    Daimler isn't putting all its alternative fuel eggs in one basket. Zetsche revealed that Mercedes will introduce a fuel cell car by the "middle of the decade." A hydrogen-powered fuel cell car that emits only water has been the holy grail of automobile manufacturers for 20 years, but deadlines for its introduction have proved elastic. GM long promised to have a saleable prototype ready by 2010 but never delivered one. Even earlier, Zetsche's predecessor, Jurgen Schrempp, had promised a Mercedes fuel cell car 2004, and it never left the laboratory.

    Sales won't be large because little hydrogen refueling infrastructure exists. Zetsche hopes that setting a new deadline for a fuel cell car will provide an incentive for others to start building. "Infrastructure is the missing part of the equation," he says.

    Further expanding its EV options, Daimler is holding on to its 10% stake in Tesla Motors (TSLA). Zetsche says Mercedes will use Tesla batteries in the electrically-powered Smart Car.

    China and EVs are just two reasons why Zetsche believes that autos, once derided as mature, now deserve to be classified a growth industry with annual production gains of 5% to 6%. He intends for Mercedes, which invented the auto 125 years ago and still commands a substantial price premium over its rivals, to maintain its position in the automotive universe.

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