Sascha S. Simon is manager of advanced product planning for Mercedes-Benz USA.
The overall market share of German-made vehicles sold in the U.S. is on the rise, reaching 6.4 percent for the first eight months of 2008. Do Mercedes-Benz's American sales figures reflect a similar trend?
Needless to say, this year is not without its challenges and nearly every market category is feeling the affects of the current market situation. Currently we are maintaining sales very close to 2007 figures for the same period, an enviable position given the current economic conditions.Do you think the American motoring public will accept diesel vehicles – even if they are "clean?"
Yes, and past sales figures have demonstrated that despite the past challenges of not offering diesels in all 50 states, we've sold over 37,000 diesels since 2004. In 2007, we sold 12,580 diesels, which was an 81 percent increase over 2006 figures for the same period. Now that our BlueTEC vehicles are available in all 50 states, we anticipate that many customers will now consider a diesel engine as part of the purchase process.
Regarding BlueTec servicing, what are some of the issues with maintenance and repair that differ from diesels already on the U.S. market? Are there enough trained personnel to work on diesel vehicles? Will the supply chain for diesel parts be ready?
To meet strict emissions standards for 50-state compliance, the BlueTEC SUVs (M-, R-, GL-Class) utilize precisely metered quantities of an urea-based solution (AdBlue) into the exhaust stream to help further reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. As a result, the AdBlue reservoir must be replenished approximately every 10,000 miles or a typical oil change service interval. Mercedes-Benz has been a pioneer in diesel passenger car vehicles, and the diesel has been a fixture in our model lineup since its return in 2004. Therefore, our service personnel are well trained and experienced with diesel as well as the new generation of BlueTEC vehicles.
Are there enough diesel filling stations conveniently available to regular drivers (as opposed to truck stops) to keep up with your sales projections?
We have not seen fuel availability to be an issue. Additionally, the navigation systems in our diesel vehicles are specifically equipped with data to locate diesel fuel stations.
What are your U.S. production and sales goals for the BlueTEC line?
Apologies, but we do not communicate details about our sales volume.
T. Boone Pickens is spending multiple millions of dollars advertising his proposal to make compressed natural gas (CNG) a key alternative "bridge" fuel to reduce the nation's appetite for imported oil until other power systems are perfected. (He sees wind power as an electricity generation source to free up natural gas for vehicle use.) What are your views on his proposals? What are some of the other alternative fuel systems that Daimler is working on?
We certainly agree that alternative fuels provide potential for meeting future emissions standards and have been working closely to develop new powertrain solutions which embrace these new technologies. Specifically, we are working to develop powertrains which are compatible with gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel and hydrogen.
Which alternative fuel(s) do you feel is the most viable to obtain mass production and mass acceptance in the U.S.?
It's difficult to single out any one option. Therefore, we take a comprehensive approach to our research and development of new powertrains, which embrace a variety of sustainable power solutions. For the short term, we feel that diesel provides a viable choice for increased fuel economy without sacrificing utility or performance.
As department manager of advanced product planning for Mercedes-Benz USA, Sascha S. Simon is responsible for long-term planning functions in the strategic planning area of product management. In this role, Simon ensures that future Mercedes-Benz product offerings in the U.S. best deliver on customer needs and desires based on market research and trend data, working in tandem with product designers in Stuttgart, Germany and Palo Alto, Calif.
He develops future product and technology strategies and implements those plans – including vehicle design, drive trains, safety systems, and electronic components – overseeing the evaluation of vehicle offerings and technological concepts with the driver in mind.
Previously, Simon was telematics supervisor at the company, developing the next generation of telematics solutions for Mercedes-Benz vehicles, including developing and launching the digital upgrade for the Mercedes-Benz Tele Aid system.
Prior to joining the company in 2004, Simon worked at Daimler-Benz Aerospace in Munich, Germany for seven years where he was head of business development and strategy for the Satellite Constellation branch of the then-newly formed European Aeronautics, Defense and Space Corporation EADS before holding several positions in areas ranging from corporate planning and technology to jet engines and advanced space systems. In this position, he was instrumental in building the early case for the European Navigation Constellation Galileo and spearheaded many projects for satellite based Telematics and Satellite Radio.
Simon holds various degrees in physics and business administration from the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany and from the University of California, Los Angeles. He lives with his family in Warwick, N.Y. In his spare time he is a dedicated conservationist, scuba diver, and co-founder and board member of the non-profit organization Shark Savers, Inc.