Two new stars have arrived in Mercedes Benz's retail network this week, with both the stylish Bluewater Retail Showcase - and first new build "hub" site - opening their doors to customers.
Crowds had gathered to see the centre's newest Retail Showcase open at Bluewater, and business was brisk from the start. In the first hour of trading, two impressed customers purchased the unconventional and funky smart crossblade - on show in the UK for the first time, and costing £15,990 each.
The new sites are the first examples of plans unveiled by Mercedes Benz which represent a new way of retailing cars and interacting with customers.
All-new Exeter premises lead the way
Mercedes Benz of Exeter, the first new look retail outlet, was built at a cost of £4 million by City Motor Holdings, one of the partners that operates two-thirds of the new Mercedes Benz network. The new site combines state of the art sales and service facilities, including 175 new and used vehicles, and a 17 car showroom. A separate new smart box - a brand new sales centre - is also included.
The new outlet embraces all the initiatives that Mercedes Benz has been trialling and refining as its Market Area concept has evolved. Dedicated "meeters and greeters" will welcome customers and ensure they meet the most appropriate member of staff.
Advanced vehicle configuration systems will enable customers to see a virtual car in different paint and trim colours before ordering, and a bistro and children's play area ensure the whole process is relaxed.
More innovations abound in the service area. Rather than struggling to find a parking space, then walking into the service reception only to get the car taken into the workshop, the customer can now use the "drive-in service bay". By parking their car in a special area of the workshop, a service advisor can run a series of diagnostic tests to simulate various driving conditions, such as braking, suspension and steering.
The results will be shown on the technician's hand-held display unit, so any necessary work can be discussed with the customer before being undertaken. Technicians, organised into teams, will have ownership of individual jobs, improving efficiency and giving customers an expert contact with whom to discuss their needs.
Chris Spaett, Regional Director for Mercedes Benz of Exeter said: "This is an exciting time for everyone connected with the business and we're delighted to be at the forefront of this new revolution in Mercedes Benz vehicle retailing.
"These exceptional new facilities mean that we are able to offer our customers an even higher level of service than they've previously experienced and to meet their requirements for many years to come," he concluded.
Mercedes Benz's new retail initiatives look set to transform the way in which its products are sold, and it is clear that the changes will mean even better service, and even more choice than before.
Retail Showcase opens in Europe's largest retail destination
The new Mercedes Benz Retail Showcase, located in the Rose Gallery at Bluewater, Kent opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday 1 May, and was immediately packed with eager consumers.
The stunning new store is the first retail-led outlet Mercedes Benz has opened in Britain, and brings a number of innovations to its visitors and customers. As well as selling a huge variety of Mercedes Benz merchandise, from model cars to luxury watches, smartware, and an exclusive range of McLaren products, more usual Mercedes Benz services will be on offer - albeit with some interesting twists.
Customers can buy a new or used Mercedes Benz or smart, and will have on-line access to 1,000 used vehicles. Sales executives will be on hand, and customers requiring finance can speak to an expert via the in-store video link. Eight permanent test drive bays in the nearby covered car park give an opportunity to try the latest cars, with nearby Mercedes Benz of Dartford offering a larger selection of vehicles.
A "service while you shop" facility means Mercedes Benz owners can drop their car into the Dartford retailer, and be driven to Bluewater. Once the service has been completed, the customers are collected and returned to Dartford.
Developed in record time, the new store's look reflects traditional Mercedes Benz qualities - prestige, quality and great design. Aluminium, glass and steel are used throughout in strong architectural features. "Floating frames" are ringed with cold cathode lights, to delineate the key product areas.
A curved History Wall giving details on Mercedes Benz's rich heritage flanks the feature car, which is located under an illuminated dome. Elsewhere, plasma screens, sleek Internet terminals and a holographic "info window" bring a high-tech touch to the store.
Geoff Brady, Managing Director of DaimlerChrysler Retail UK Ltd explained: "It's been an incredibly successful opening day, and the store has been full of interested customers. Selling two smart crossblades in our first hour was really the icing on the cake.
"The pace of this project has been incredible. We've gone from blue sky to Bluewater in only 100 working days, and the team's efforts have really paid off to create a unique outlet.
"We're viewing our Retail Showcase as a living laboratory, a chance to see what works brilliantly, and what may need a tweak in the first few weeks of the store opening. In addition to the stylish, sleek look of the store, our customers are guaranteed a warm welcome and friendly professional service. Whether they're looking for a model car or the real thing, our experts are on hand to help."Published 3 May 2002