Dimitris Psillakis and the Mercedes-Benz EQS have come to the United States at about the same time, and the company is counting on both developments to boost the brand and its dealers across the country.
The EQS sedan, of course is Mercedes-Benz’s flagship for an electrified future and the first Mercedes to utilize a platform exclusively designed for EV models. It’s also the first fully electric vehicle from the company’s EQ sub-brand to be offered in the U.S. market and the weapon that Mercedes-Benz finally can count on to ding Tesla.
Psillakis has been president of Mercedes-Benz USA since January, and it’s up to him to leverage the EQS and subsequent vehicles in the EQ lineup to best advantage for the brand and its more than 400 dealers in the United States and Canada. He’s also leading MBUSA’s more than 1,600 employees, most of them at the company’s new headquarters in Atlanta. After helping boost Mercedes-Benz’s sales and performance in markets around the globe, Psillakis most recently served as president of the company’s Canadian operations.
“We have a very strong brand and a brand with a long history in the U.S.,” Psillakis told me. “There’s a big network of dealers around the country who are very eager to receive the electric Mercedes-Benz. We say, ‘Now electric has its Mercedes,’ because so far the options for EVs — especially on the top end of the market — have been very limited. We have a competitive proposal for the market and a desirable product.”
A huge part of Psillakis’s task these days is working with Mercedes’s North American dealers to optimize the launch and to be ready to sell and service a stream of other new models on the EQ platform over the next few years, including some that will be built at the company’s plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“We’re preparing them mentally, and with skills, in terms of sales consultants and customer-facing functions as well as the right skills on the technology side to maintain and support these vehicles,” Psillakis said. “We’re also working with them on their infrastructure, including the necessary charging stations, display areas and whatever we do from a marketing point of view.”
This year already has been a time of transition for Mercedes’ dealer base because of how the pandemic disrupted traditional automotive retailing and became an accelerant to online relationships between dealers and customers.
“We’re dealing with a premium brand, and a premium brand means a premium brand experience,” Psillakis said. “We want to be able to offer it physically, so customers can check vehicles and do negotiations and receive product. But also we ahve custoemrs who are scared by the pandemic or are busy or prefer to be totally online, and they can do everything through our online sales channel.”
Given Mercedes-Benz’s huge installed base of gasoline-powered vehicles in the U.S., Psillakis said that brand and its dealers also are aware they need to continue to service that base even as the EV revolution seems to take hold in the American market.
“We’re bullish about the EV option coming in, but at the same time we’re continuing to support all Mercedes-Benz internal-combustion engines and vehicles,” he said. “As EVs go to five, seven, 10 percent, we’ll still be there for our full range of vehicles.”