Marcella Scarlett, Business Reporter
The typical driver of a Mercedes- Benz in Jamaica is either a company executive, or older, high-net-worth individual — and they are often male.
The demographic has evolved alongside the brand's understated luxury, and their loyalty has kept Mercedes among the top-selling premium brands in the auto market.
But now it is in search of a new persona, at least in Jamaica, where the dealer in the brand has announced plans to tap into a new market of young professionals — the up-and-comers in the 25-plus age grouping.
It's a demographic that generally craves excitement. Silver Star Motors Limited thinks it can deliver, and is hoping this strategy will drive sales.
"We are trying to rebrand to our customers, you know, change the perception," Jacqueline Sangster, general manager at Silver Star Motors said.
"We are expanding our image to focus on young upward mobile persons. Traditionally, the focus was on an older set of persons, mostly those over 50 — the older more mature type — but now we want to change that," Sangster said.
Silver Star, a subsidiary of the Stewart Automotive group, is currently redesigning its showrooms to make the displays more visible to passersby, but also to give it the look and feel of other Benz dealerships worldwide.
The remodelling comes three years into Stewart's acquisition of the Benz dealership in 2010, and is part of a programme by Silver Star to make the brand more appealing, said Sangster. It includes transforming the operation into a full-service standalone dealership.
Sangster said the company is investing J$40 million in the project; the end result will be to have the sales, servicing and parts departments in one location.
She said the company managed to keep cost down by retrofitting and incorporating the existing structure into the design.
Construction started in July and is scheduled for completion in early December.
Sangster said Silver Star sells about 120 Mercedes Benz per year across all categories. She said this level of sales is "not bad" given that it is a premium vehicle.
"Our bread and butter is the C-class, E-class and M-class. These are the traditional models," she said.
But with the push to add young professionals to its clientele, Silver Star is now aiming to grow sales from the next generation compact cars such as the A-class, and CLA.
And: "Next year we will bring in the GLA," Sangster said.
On Tuesday, the company formally launched the CLA in Kingston.
Both the CLA and A-class are priced at J$5.5 million. The other models range in price from J$5.8 million to J$17 million, and more for super-luxury grade vehicles.
"We are aiming for the 25 and above age group with the A-class and the CLA-class. This would complement the traditional models of the C-class, E-class, M-class, S-class," she said.
Sangster said in the past Mercedes' focus was mostly on the higher-end market but, just like other luxury brands, they are trying to tap into the "young sporty generation".
"We want to introduce the young people to a certain level of luxury from early. We get these models because we know they would like them; it would fit that young sporty set of young person who is looking to move up in society," she said.
"The price points that these cars are coming out at will definitely be more affordable compared to the traditional models. They will be priced to compete with other cars in that segment of the market," she said.
The A-class is described as a premium compact car. Other comparable cars in the market are AUDI A1 and the AUDI A3 as well as the BMW 3 Series.
The company's change in marketing strategy coincides with the remodelling and retooling of the Mercedes Benz dealership at Stewart Automotive's South Camp Road complex.
Among the major changes, the side of the building facing the road will be glass instead of solid concrete walls.
"We repurposed and retooled what we had, instead of demolishing and having to build again, so that helped to save costs," Sangster said.