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Mercedes-Benz changes sales management in China

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-20 10:25
Nicholas Speeks will become new CEO of Mercedes-Benz US and head of sales NAFTA Mercedes-Benz Cars. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Mercedes-Benz's sales chief in China is moving to take the helm of the brand's operations in the United States, leaving his successor a solid foundation to move forward but also achievements that may require strenuous efforts to match.

On September 1, Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co's President and CEO Nicholas Speeks will become CEO of Mercedes-Benz US and serve as head of sales in the NFATA region, according to a statement the German carmaker released on Friday.

Jan Madeja, who is now heading Mercedes-Benz Russia, will take over as the sales chief in China, which became the brand's largest market in the world during Speeks' term.

Jan Madeja will be president and CEO of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co. [Photo provided to China Daily]

According to the statement, Madeja started his career in Mercedes-Benz's parent company Daimler in 1992.

He has since held various positions in the group, including sales chief of Mercedes-Benz vans, chief financial officer of Daimler's bus unit and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Poland.

Speeks joined the company in 1979 and began leading its China sales operations in 2012, when the brand suffered from chaotic networks and lagged far behind Audi and BMW in sales and branding.

In three years, however, Speeks and his team beat colleagues in the US, turning China into the largest market for Mercedes-Benz and making the brand one of the most popular in the country.

Statistics show Mercedes-Benz sold around 670,000 vehicles last year in China, more than triple sales in 2012.

The brand had built a network of about 620 dealerships by the end of 2018, almost double the number of 2013.

Speeks has endeared himself and the brand to Chinese customers. He was one of the first foreign auto executives to sing Chinese songs at auto shows, impersonate legendary Chinese figures to greet fans online on festive occasions, and learn the language in an earnest way.

Hubertus Troska, a Daimler board member, said: "With his passionate style of leadership, innovative spirit, strong sense of ownership and responsibilities, and his full respect for the local market and talents, Speeks has earned recognition from both shareholders and partners."

Chinese partner BAIC Group has been satisfied with Speeks as well, as the State-owned carmaker has seen the joint venture with Mercedes-Benz become a major source of its profit.

BAIC Chairman Xu Heyi said "Speeks has shown true respect to the local market, great vision for the development of the company, and has been open-minded in the relationship with his business partners."

Both Xu and Troksa expressed their confidence in Madeja as well, hoping he will lead Mercedes-Benz into sustainable and steady development.

Analysts say Madeja's leadership and broad knowledge are proven, but he may have to warm up to learning about new trends in China, including better reception of new energy vehicles, younger customers and a higher ratio of female car owners than in the West.

A downward trend that has run for 10 months in China's overall automotive market may pose as a further challenge to Madeja as well, although the premium segment has been outperforming the industry average, they said.

Mercedes-Benz sold 57,707 vehicles in April in China, up 0.8 percent year-on-year.

In the first four months sales totaled 232,050, up 2.2 percent from the same period last year.

Last year, it sold more than 670,000 new vehicles in the country, up 10.3 percent from 2017.

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