Mercedes Ending Dealer Sales Model in Europe

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Following word that Mercedes-Benz wanted to refocus on producing high-end luxury vehicles with loftier profit margins, the German automaker has decided to eliminate dealerships in Europe so it can move on a direct-sales model similar to what’s offered by Tesla.

The company is reportedly eliminating up to 20 percent of its dealerships in its home country and roughly 10 percent globally (with a focus on Europe). This follows previous assertions by Mercedes that half of the brand’s domestic sales will be done via an “agency model” by 2023. Following an agreement with its own dealer network, the company said late in 2021 that it would begin eliminating the traditional scheme of dealers buying their vehicle stock based on market conditions with consumers coming in to haggle. The new plan puts more financial pressure on Mercedes and eliminates any chance of price negotiation. Meanwhile, dealers will get some cash for every vehicle sold and whatever after-sales services they can render.

The European Association of Mercedes-Benz Dealers has already signed onto the plan, with the assumption being they’ll have to assume lower financial risks despite still getting a cut of every sale made.

According to Automotive News, the automaker is already planning to expand the strategy and is now targeting 80 percent of European sales through the agency model by 2025. It also wants to expand the scheme to an additional fifteen markets, for a grand total of twenty, and to begin pivoting to online transactions wherever possible.

From AN:

“We want to have more proximity to the customer and therefore have better control over pricing,” CFO Harald Wilhelm said last week at Mercedes’ capital markets day. “That’s why we are moving from the current dealer role.”

The cuts in Mercedes’ global dealer footprint will take place by 2025, with the German dealership reduction in place by 2028, said Bettina Fetzer, vice president communications and marketing.

“We need fewer large showrooms in mature markets,” she said, while noting that Mercedes is adding showrooms in China. “We will move away from large showrooms, especially when we move to direct sales.”

That’s not the case in the U.S. market.

“We are committed to support our existing franchise model together with our dealer partners,” Robert Moran, director of corporate communications for Mercedes-Benz USA, said in an emailed statement on Monday. “Despite the growing number of changes in trends and direct sales in other markets (agent model; model D in Europe etc.), our franchised dealers will continue to play a central role in managing the transaction and sale of vehicles with our customers in offline and online transactions.”

Additional changes include expanding on extravagant storefronts in places like Dubai and Shanghai. Here, Mercedes will showcase some of its most expensive products (Maybach and AMG) in lounge-like showrooms for the kind of people that can afford them. It sounds extravagant but it also represents a coy bit of restructuring for the automaker. Mercedes-Benz head Ola Källenius announced numerous cost-cutting endeavors in 2020 and the business culled over two-dozen dealerships in Europe last year. It’s also been reducing overhead as part of its plan to consolidate control over numerous markets and restore its image as a purveyor of premium products.

“All of these efforts combined give us a competitive advantage, but the full leap comes when we combine that with direct sales,” Fetzer explained. “This gives us a direct management of the customer relationship, and we will know our customers even better.”

That’ll be made easier thanks to modern data collection. Rather than dealers targeting people locally, Mercedes can cast a much wider net by leveraging analytics to home in on potential ups. Er… customers. We’re actually seeing a lot of automakers testing the waters with direct sales in Europe right now — with the German brands appearing the most interested. However, other companies (e.g. Toyota) have stated they’ll probably never abandon the traditional dealer model, regardless of the market.

[Image: Pixfly/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Pmirp1 Pmirp1 on May 24, 2022

    Nothing says luxury better than getting rid of service for luxury goods! Very strange times. I mean as a customer used to semi luxury goods, I think I expect someone to help me with the order process. May be massage my ego, call me boss, get me a glass of lemonade or at least a fresh bottle of water. Tell me what wheels come with what trim and what options I have. Instead, now I need to click or swipe and do all that myself. Great. Next airlines try to convince us that printing our own tickets out of ATM machines at airports is easier than some friendly agent printing it for us. Or instead of curbside service taking our suitcase and checking us in, we carry our own luggage onto plane. Wait, that already happens. It is called service!

    • Stuki Stuki on May 24, 2022

      They'll have simple buttons to push for "The model Bond drove", "the one in Robb Report," the ones each Kardashian drives, the one Jeremy Clarkson "likes", and the one Zelensky drives (Putin is not allowed to drive one for now..) Makes it easy. Covers 98% of the market they are now reduced to targeting.

  • MoDo MoDo on May 24, 2022

    Mercedes benz Canada sold off all their corporate owned stores last year so this has probably been in the works awhile. Thing is, you use to be able to get 20K off a new S-class, are they going to price them accordingly in their non-negotiation price model? They better tread carefully.

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.