WORLDWIDE DEMAND for the new Mercedes-Benz M-class has forced Daimler-Benz AG to take over marketing and distribution from its US factory.
Responsibility for worldwide sales and marketing will move to company headquarters in Stuttgart, along with the marketing team that had been assembled in Alabama.
When Daimler executives conceived the M-class project, they decided to make all global distribution and marketing decisions at the Alabama factory, in part because the USA was the largest market.
The USA is still largest, but demand from the rest of the world is higher than expected.
Executives were concerned that a US distribution office might spark tensions between Mercedes-Benz sales companies around the world and the Stuttgart headquarters.
'It was becoming increasingly apparent to us that we would need to centralize allocation decisions for this vehicle,' said Roland Folger. Until 1 January he was vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz US International in Alabama. Now he has returned to Germany as vice president of individualization for Daimler. In that job, he oversees aftermarket product sales.
In addition to Folger, 18 Alabama marketing and distribution personnel have moved to Stuttgart, including six Americans who were hired for the job in Alabama.
'We recognized that you can't split up the responsibilities for distribution,' Folger said. 'You can't have one office in charge of only the M-class and one in charge of only the C- or E-class. The various companies must have one central office they can go to.'
Meanwhile, Daimler's German distribution operations have adopted new procedures for taking sales orders and processing them. When Daimler created the M-class venture in 1994, Stuttgart was plagued by inefficiency. It took a long time to get orders through the pipeline.
One Daimler goal in building the new M-class in the USA was to learn new ways of manufacturing and distributing vehicles, ordering parts and using just-in-time delivery.
Daimler-Benz has also been making its operations in Germany more efficient, Folger said.
'For the past four or five years, they have been reorganizing,' he said.
The Alabama company will keep the responsibility for worldwide M-class service issues.