Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand is on track to pass BMW to become the world's best-selling premium automakers this year, regaining a title it lost to its rival in 2005. A key reason for this is the Sensual Purity design language developed by Daimler styling boss Gorden Wagener after taking over the job in 2008. He recently spoke about the role design has played in Mercedes' sales surge with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Eric Gallina.
Mercedes has recorded a double-digit increase in global sales with gains of 12 percent in Europe and more than 30 percent in China through August. What is helping drive this success?
That's the result of the strategy we founded after I took over. [Daimler CEO] Dieter Zetsche and the board said to me: 'Show us where we are going.' As a result, I started to develop the Sensual Purity design philosophy. At the time Mercedes was a traditional luxury company and my task was to move it from the traditional to the modern. In the last three years we have pretty much completed that task – you see that success in every aspect.
How was the design strategy formed?
When we developed the philosophy we created a chessboard with a lot of different players from the A class to the S class and many others in between that. [We determined] where there were gaps and how we could fill them. That chessboard generated a strategic plan with lots of new cars -- especially on the front-wheel-drive platform – to see where the niche was and where we could extend our portfolio. We're not just doing niche products, it is pretty much mainstream, and of course we have a great portfolio of SUVs.
How do you define Mercedes' Sensual Purity design philosophy?
The cars are clean and pure as we try to create perfect proportions. This allows us to do simple things that are still sexy, which is important. Therefore, Mercedes' products are very different from the mainstream in the automotive industry right now, where basically everybody puts a lot of stuff onto the cars. This is something we don't believe in, especially not for a luxury label and a German company. That differentiates us very much. For me, this is a crucial part of the success as well.
How do you articulate the Sensual Purity design philosophy through Mercedes' SUVs?
SUVs don't have to be edgy and rugged. If you look at the edgy GLK, and now this super-sleek GLC [which replaced the GLK], I think no other car embodies the change we went through more than this car. [The GLC] is currently our hottest-selling car. We went from an edgy, rugged look to something sleeker and sportier, but still cool and defined. It's a huge success.