Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off the first “AMG Performance Center” in Thailand recently, a glamorous ceremony to launch the new high-end sales zone exclusive to the sporty sub brand.
The trail blazing concept is part of the just one year old “Benz BKK Autohaus” dealership located on Kanchanapisek Road on the western outskirts of the capital city.
Mercedes has sky high hopes for the AMG brand here – which was only officially launched with a new and ambitious growth strategy three years ago. The AMG Performance Center is the next big step forward in the plan.
Mercedes is the premium/luxury segment leader here; it enjoys a staggering half share of this market and has been unchallenged for 18 consecutive years, so it needs to find directions to grow and to exploit its huge and well developed footprint (it has 32 dealers nationwide with 4 more coming this year) as well the reputation for good service and reliability it enjoys.
So, enter AMG. The performance division has strong name recognition here, it offers high margins and the opportunity to hook in younger buyers. It’s no wonder it’s full speed ahead for AMG here.
That aggressive roll out started with 4 models being launched in 2017, 6 more last year and 12 are being added this year. So, there is already a lot of depth to the range.
Demand is ahead of Mercedes’ predictions too. “[Sales are] much, much stronger than we expected actually,” said Roland Folger, President of Mercedes Benz Thailand, during the opening ceremony of the AMG Performance Center at Benz BKK Autohaus.
The volumes are there to further tempt dealers to invest. “We started out in 2016 and in 2017,” he adds. “We grew by twice or nearly three times up to 100 units and then last year we sold about 300 units of AMG and this year we hope we can continue with that growth potential.”
Benz BKK Autohaus is a flashy new dealership in the Bang Khae district. Sited alongside the western ring road it commands a perfect position and is vast – in the style of the new generation of super dealers – with a long glass fronted showroom, an almost endless service bay and its own multi-storey carpark.
It only opened a year ago so it’s still very new and shiny – and now it’s the location of the first “AMG Performance Center” in Thailand.
The showroom is very clean and clinical with dark colours and strategically positioned spotlights, very Germanic in its design philosophy. It delves straight into AMG’s DNA as it has a real motorsport feel.
The activities of the dominant Mercedes AMG F1 team can often be overlooked in Mercedes’ marketing – but not on this occasion. A huge graphic of the F1 pit crew, suited up and ready for action dominates one wall. “AMG allows us to connect all the benefits we see in Formula 1 and actually transferring it into our Mercedes Benz vehicles,” says Folger.
Meanwhile the floor covering mimics the asphalt of a racetrack – and in fact it’s quite realistic to the touch although whether many well-heeled customers will get down on their knees to realise that remains to be seen. Not sure how easy it’s going to be to clean though. Emphasising further the circuit feel, the cars on display are positioned in “grid boxes”.
With the addition of AMG giving the Mercedes dealers two brands that appeal to somewhat different audiences, expect a very rapid uptake across the soon-to-be-36-strong dealer network, few are likely to want to miss out on the opportunity.
Already, says Folger, the momentum AMG is enjoying has sparked dealer enthusiasm. “Most dealers are in agreement so this is just the beginning,” he says. “We will have a whole host of other dealer openings as well, [dealers] that have been able and willing to invest into this.”
A high-end showroom certainly comes at a cost and Mercedes has set the bar high. “It depends on the dealer and how much they want to invest,” says Folger. “What we have is a minimum requirement of the materials used, that they have a certain minimum space they reserve for the vehicles; we would like them to also cover the surface with a specific racing surface and basically put markings down there and [another] requirement from our side is that they have specific training for their people on the sales side.”
The carrot for everyone is taking AMG here to the next level and Folger is confident that the “AMG Performance Center” concept is going to see sales rocket even further. “We hope we can at least double [sales], that would be the overall expectation,” he says. “We strongly believe that there is a large group of customers in the Thai market, especially in Bangkok, that have a heart, have the blood for higher performance cars and to combine that with a brand like Mercedes that is known for its reliability and premium service that is naturally everybody’s dream because if you drive any other car you have one workshop in Bangkok and maybe another in Chiang Mai and that’s about it.”
The AMG Performance Center is already a tried and tested game plan around the world – so it’s already been well refined and the brand will be supporting the dealers to the hilt. “It’s a similar concept, we didn’t invent something specifically for Thailand, we’re also guided by the support that we get from Germany as far as AMG requirements are concerned [and] also as far as the vehicles are concerned,” notes Folger.
“Some of the vehicles like that a dealer could not afford to put into his showroom,” he continues. “So, with the support of AMG on our side we can create an atmosphere for people who are interested in high performance cars as well to get to experience and also to drive them possibly.”
The AMG Performance Center concept seems a real no brainer. “What we see is a significant potential and also our dealers are convinced to come to us and asked us if they can invest,” says Folger. “So, it was really us that pushed from our side, it’s more an investment opportunity for the dealers because unlike in other countries only dealers that do the investment that you see here are also able to qualify for the AMG dealerships. Other dealers that don’t have that will not be able to sell AMG cars.”
At Benz BKK Autohaus the attention to detail in the AMG Performance Center zone is impressive; aside from the asphalt style carpets and F1 graphics there is an AMG GT C in red, a GT R in metallic green and of course the iconic G Wagen in metallic silver. It’s a potent mix of AMG’s high-end models complimented on the floor below by further spins off from across the production range.
The AMG Performance Center is knocking on an open door and – so far – it looks to be a winning move by Mercedes in Thailand.