Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia
Mercedes-Benz Indonesia’s sales last year was in full gear, following positive results in the last three years as it increased its sales by 3% to 3,374 units in 2016. This favorable result was inline with the three-pointed star’s performance last year where it was able to sell for the first time more than two million units of cars around the world. One driving force was the popularity of its SUVs, of which the brand sold more than 700,000 units globally, an increase of 34% over last year. The positive trend could also be seen in Indonesia, where Mercedes-Benz Indonesia was also able to record a growth of more than 30% in its SUV sales last year.
“The positive trend is not only in the Unites States or Europe, where we are strong, but also in Indonesia where SUVs outperformed our traditional segment,” says Roelof Lamberts, the president director and chief executive of PT Mercedes-Benz Distribution Indonesia.
Currently the brand offers a wide variety of SUV models: the GLA, GLC, GLE, and GLS, the latter three being locally assembled in Bogor. SUVs have been evolving in the recent years—no longer are they the huge gas-guzzlers of a decade ago. Now SUVs are segmented to cater to different types of customers, such as the GLE, which is comparable to the E-Class, and competes with the likes of the BMW X5 and Lexus RX. According to Roelof, the GLE now contributes half of all SUV sales, followed by the GLC and the GLA. “The introduction of the small SUV has contributed significantly to the segment,” Roelof says.
Roelof, 49, studied international marketing management in the Netherlands before joining Mercedes-Benz 27 years ago. For the first seven years there, he held various sales and marketing positions in the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart. In 1998, Roelof became the Southeast Asia regional manager, based in Singapore, followed by being the general manager for marketing in Thailand in 2002. From 2006, he held various positions in Europe before returning to Asia to become sales and marketing director of Mercedes-Benz Indonesia in 2015, and then taking the helm of the Mercedes-Benz Distribution Indonesia last year.
Another sales driver, according to Roelof, was giving the cars a more contemporary look. The first transformation was done to the S-Class in 2013, giving it a sleeker design. These new designs were applied since then across the brand portfolio, including the SUVs. “Design plays a major role in purchase decisions, as a car is a reflection of one’s personality,” says Roelof.