Dr MARTIN ZIMMERMANN President and CEO Mercedes-Benz South Africa


Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to Mercedes-Benz, we appreciate that you’ve taken the time to join us today.

With the invention of the automobile 125 years ago, Carl Benz changed the world.

His inventions, and those of Gottlieb Daimler, set into motion a dynamic which continues to influence life to this day.

They paved the way for an automobile society.
A society which developed from individual transport; to one with trucks for commercial enterprise which catapulted world economic growth, and finally to buses which made mass people transport much easier.

In short, they invented not just the car, the truck and the bus. They invented mobility, their inventions made our world MOBILE.

At Mercedes-Benz and Daimler, our passion for invention never dies.

Even 125 years later, we are passionate about the future of mobility.

Our vision is to keep people mobile and shape the future of safe and sustainable mobility like we have done so during the past 125 years!

The first challenge to this objective has been and is that of Safety.

As a result, Mercedes-Benz addressed this by developing ground-breaking safety innovations at a time nobody yet talked about safety.  We’ve developed many “firsts” like – ABS and airbags. Today, almost all vehicles incorporate one or the other of our technologies.  Similarly, you will see many of our current safety innovations spreading and making mobility even safer.

Ladies and gentlemen,
In Mercedes-Benz vehicles –
Safety is not only a standard which you have every right to expect, but we set the benchmark for the future.

(A leader in green technology)

The second big challenge has been and is still today, that of environmental protection and sustainability.

As Mercedes-Benz we not only accept our responsibility to the environment – we are committed to reducing our own carbon footprint and to leading the industry. Here at Mercedes-Benz South Africa, we do this at our Pretoria and East London operations.

On a global level, we address this matter with a broad spectrum of alternative and clean-drive technologies, second to nobody in our industry.

We pursue ‘green’ solutions, whilst making our cars even more fascinating and pushing our customer’s driving experience to even higher levels.

In short:
We are making our exciting cars greener, and our green cars more exciting.

At Mercedes-Benz, we do this by comprehensively pushing the envelope along three directions:

1. Optimised fuel consumption in all conventional drive systems;
2. Better combinations of  combustion engines with electric motors; and
3. Fully electric drive systems – covering both battery-electric, as well as the most advanced fuel cell-electric powertrains.

All our green vehicles carry the BlueEFFICIENCY trademark, which gives our customers the confidence that they have opted for the optimal green solution – from our largest trucks to our smallest smart.

And rest assured: For our South African customers we offer as many of these vehicles as the country’s fuel quality will allow.  And we will also fight for making cleaner fuel available, as early as possible, so that this beautiful country can really benefit from our very latest, environment-protecting, and resource-saving, technologies.

Ladies and gentlemen, for us at Mercedes-Benz, fighting for a sustainable future is a key pillar of our brand promise and our responsibility.

South Africa will be hosting COP 17 later this year. We consider it a logical step for MBSA to showcase our very latest and real-world, proven green technologies and vehicles. You will hear more of that in the next weeks, when we will present to you our “road to Durban COP17”!

That brings me to the third big challenge – the world of networked mobility:
Our latest and pioneering Mercedes-Benz and Daimler mobility concepts will again bring about radical change – both for commercial and individual mobility solutions.

We have developed mobility concepts, using low and zero-emission smart cars, connecting our customers to bus rapid transit or to provide for most convenient inner-city mobility.  As an example, our innovative pay-by-the-minute car2go business model is seeing remarkable success, with commercial operations running in Hamburg, Ulm, Austin and Vancouver, and coming to many more cities in the near future.

We are convinced, that some of these mobility concepts can also be adopted in South Africa – as a potentially perfect fit with the Gautrain and BRT.

Ladies and gentlemen – we are working hard to innovate and shape the future of sustainable mobility – making it both more convenient and more efficient by networking mobility.

Speaking of being better, our manufacturing plant in East London continues to be acknowledged for its world leading quality. In 2010 we won the JD Power Platinum Award for producing the best quality cars in the world for the U.S.  This year, we once again won a Gold Award.

Even more: Synovate also awarded us a Platinum Award for outstanding brand performance as Mercedes-Benz, this together with Gold in all the car segments where we competed.

We are proud of these awards as they are the result of our employees’ commitment to our brand and our company. And as they show that you can build world-class operations in South Africa if you invest into people, in this beautiful country.

With such a track record, we have also been successful in gaining approval for a massive R2,5bn investment to build the fourth generation C-Class in East London from 2014 onwards. With this, we will almost double our output and create another approximately 2,500 jobs in South Africa, at our plant and at our suppliers.

While this is great news, we are facing some serious challenges.
The Global and SA economies are volatile and unpredictable.
While we cannot change this, we must prepare for it. We at Mercedes-Benz strongly believe that the best way to do this is to continue to work, day in and day out, on making us, and South Africa, even more competitive. In fact, we believe that we need to be – not just competitive, but globally competitive – with regions like Eastern Europe or China.

After all, South Africa is an integral part of the world economy with strong ties to Europe, the US, and Asia.

Hence, the ongoing political debate on nationalisation, the large number of strikes and labour demands beyond what is economically feasible are very concerning. Then there are the additional taxes, the tolls, as well as misuse of funds and corruption creating additional uncertainty inside and outside of the country.

Further, I am concerned that not all South Africans fully realise the tough global competition we’re facing.  But we, as Mercedes-Benz, are committed to contributing our share to the sustainable economic development of the country and to the development of a large South African middle class.

As part of this, MBSA will continue to fight for the right framework for the APDP, on the supply side, as well as for commercial vehicles.

We will also continue to be a driving force for the early introduction of cleaner fuel well ahead of the current target date of 2017.
We will continue to work for improved infrastructure development, like stable power supply and better service delivery. Also for improved road, rail and port operations, as these expensive and inefficient operations currently limit our ability to use local suppliers and expand the business.

We will continue to throw our weight behind driving social improvements. We are doing this with a focus on programmes in HIV and AIDS, Education and projects to reduce crime.

At MBSA, we invest heavily in communities and make our contribution far beyond our own immediate interests.

For us, corporate social giving is not merely a legislative responsibility, but a moral obligation. Our long tradition of doing good supersedes any legislative imperative. It has assisted us in achieving a Level 4 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment status and thus reaching the highest score of all competitors once again in 2011 – another benchmark in the local automotive industry.

We will pursue the development of a truly transformed, fair and open economy, with a strong middle class.

This brings me to our customers and what they expect from our premium brand Mercedes-Benz.

We are focusing on bringing even more fascinating and environmentally responsible vehicles and services to serve our current customers, many of whom are at the forefront of businesses and society; as well as attract new customers, including the younger generation who shape the lifestyle of tomorrow.

Today, at the Johannesburg Motor Show we give you a taste of what Mercedes-Benz offers the South African motoring enthusiast.  South Africans are passionate about cars. And we’re passionate about our customers.

Our company’s long-term strategy is in place. Here in South Africa, we are destined to maintain our market leadership in the premium segment based on the most fascinating, cool and innovative cars and services – but also as a leader in supporting the sustainable development of South Africa.
Globally, we are committed to making Mercedes-Benz – as the most valuable premium vehicle brand  – even more valuable, and to reach sales leadership, latest by 2020. Over the next four years alone Daimler will launch 10 additional models.

Mercedes-Benz belongs at the top.
• We are a leader in innovation,
• A leader in environmental technologies and
• A leader in mobility solutions.
We owe it to our customers, our employees and our founders.

Ladies and gentlemen, at MBSA, we have the passion and  the fire for market leadership.

We will settle for only the best – The Best or Nothing.

I will now hand over to Eckart Mayer to show you the products that will keep us to the number one position!
Thank you.