The ratio between Argentina and Mercedes-Benz It began in 1951. And it was so fruitful from the beginning that in our country the first factory of the star's brand was installed outside Germany. But so far, He had never had an Argentine president.
"Now we all have open spaces, but offices, and I have no office," he says. Manuel Mantilla, new president of Mercedes-Benz Argentina, referring to the new building where the company operates.
"With this design, a different dynamic is generated, which is what the current market requires, we turn to what the future requires, the question is not what will happen but how to do it".
Manuel Mantilla at the entrance to the brand's new office in the country, in Munro.
The only antecedent of an Argentine heading Mercedes was one of them Juan Manuel Fangio. Yes, El Chueco, which in 1974 governed the board and then named honorary life secretary for the company, from 1987 to 1995 when he died. It can also be mentioned Jonathan Holcomb (2000-2004), born in the country even though Argentine he only had DNI.
Only 68 years later, the Argentine subsidiary has a local president. Mantilla, a business economist, joined the mark 10 years ago and was then responsible for the most important business that Mercedes has in the country: Vans Division.
"We are thinking of the launch of the new generation Sprinter, manufactured in the country, for the last quarter of 2019"
The arrival of Mantilla for the management of the local subsidiary takes place with a general context of negative market and with a company that in particular Just interrupted one of the most ambitious projects in recent years: the Class X pickup, development where this Argentinian participated from the beginning, will not be manufactured in Cordoba jointly with the Nissan-Renault alliance as planned.
– You were from the beginning with the development of Class X pickup, which taste left you the decision not to do it in the country?
– It's true. I was in the origin of the project, back in 2011 or 2012. There was a whole team that worked very closely with Germany. We knew it was a big challenge, but we were ready to face it. And at a time last year the vehicle left but we stayed in stand by. And finally, an agreement could not be reached between Daimler and Nissan. And the truth is, it's very sad the decision made for all the effort we put into it. But we really enjoyed the trip, because we challenged many preconceptions about the brand, the processes and what we could or could not do.
– Why the project worked in Spain, the second factory where class X is manufactured, and not here?
– It is true that the project started with manufacturing in Barcelona and Latin America was a second step. I think probably that question is more for Nissan.
– Are you going to sell Class X in Argentina, even if it's imported?
– No. It is not part of the project.
– Did they import any units? What happens to these classes X?
– We already exist in Chile. There were about 50 units.
– This year they had already announced that the national production of the Vito model ceased …
– La Vito we will continue to market. It will be imported from Spain. Here it ended up being manufactured, because it got us very complicated first with the Brazilian market and now with Argentinian, which also does not warrant it.
– All the industrial energy seems to put into the new Sprinter then, how does the project for the new generation come?
– The big workhorse we have is Sprinter. We are thinking of the launch for the last quarter of 2019. It is the new generation of this model, the third to be manufactured in the country. Our focus will also be placed in Argentina and Brazil, as well as other countries in Latin America. In Brazil, it sells very well, since last year it is the first in its segment. And in Argentina we are number 1 many years ago and it is very difficult to stay there. Therefore, the idea is to surprise the market before you need a renewed vehicle.
The new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter was presented last year in Europe.
– And what will surprise with this new generation of Sprinter?
– I tell you at the end of the year … the design is changing. It will have a completely renewed board, the efficiency of the engines …
– But the new Sprinter reaches a market that is currently very difficult, how do you see the car industry?
– The balance for us remains positive when it comes to manufacturing after all. We added the Accelo truck to the production line and our plant works with two shifts with full capacity, with which we are very good from a working point of view. The big disappointment started last year when the market began to collapse in April. And I appreciate that the rest of 2019 will be more or less the same as what we have lived. There is the sector of the field that contributes, Vaca Muerta and the demand in the Brazilian market, helping the economy. However, we only compensate for sectors that are still poor. On average, we maintain this level of activity. Today, the big uncertainty is the election in October. When it's clear, I hope you start seeing the growth.
– How do you think the relationship between the car industry and Brazil will develop?
– Brazil is a strategic partner and that vision is bilateral. Mercosur is suitable for both and all decisions made should be merged, because in the end the two countries are dependent on each other. In the short term, I don't think anything unusual happens to Mercosur. What is the road? That's exactly what is being discussed.
"The savings plan is our second good tool, with Vito and Sprinter working very well, we had an expected fall in subscriptions due to market news, but we have no errors"
– Are there opportunities to expand export destinations with the new Sprinter?
– Today, the Vans division has a factory in the United States, one in China, another in Africa, in Germany, in Spain and in Argentina, of course. That the presence of plants is strategic. And our focus is in this region. And the same goes for the other regions. Currently, we focus on Mercosur and some Latin American countries.
– Unable to send devices to the United States. for example.
– We did it last year but because the American factory I had just begun to produce and had difficulties to start. This talks about the quality of the product we manufacture here, which can be sold without problems in the American market, made by Argentines and components which in many cases are also manufactured here.
"The development of electric cars is more a country policy than a car industry one"
– Is it possible to continue to support the local market, especially the commercial vehicle market, with the scarce funding available here?
– It helps us a lot to have Mercedes-Benz Financiera, our own financing company. They focus on the automotive industry and that it is important for commercial vehicles. And there we offer alternatives where we become competitive with the plans we show. Not with the national interest rates, which are very high. But we can subsidize these prices and make them attractive to customers.
Mantilla arrived at Mercedes-Benz 10 years ago.
– General brands reduced the savings plan a lot and there were many complaints from consumers, with quotas going to the clouds. How did you influence them with commercial vehicles?
– It is our second good tool. With Vito and Sprinter it works very well. I do not know in detail the plans for the other brands but ours have quotas that only change with the increase in the list price. I am not saying that there have been few, but in other brands, except that the list price is increasing, there are shifted plans, with low fees at the beginning and then growing a lot. When you combine the two things that discomfort occurs. We have had an expected fall in subscriptions due to market news, but we have no errors.
– The car sharing It is growing more and more and there are already some alternatives in Argentina. Can you implement such a system but with commercial vehicles?
– Technically, it would be possible, but it would be necessary to establish the legal framework to make it happen. And we don't have that today. With transport and trucks there is a rule that does not make it profitable.
– Mercedes electrification plan globally is very large. What are the projects for the country?
– The products we have. It's done. Here we already offer the plug-in hybrid version of GLC. A few days ago, the first 100% electric unit in Bremen, the EQC, an SUV with 500 km of autonomy and an acceleration of 0 to 100 km / h in 5.1 seconds came out … Spectacular! But even if the products we have, they must be accompanied by an appropriate infrastructure. It is more a country policy than a car industry. Mercedes will promote all these changes and follow the country in future development. There are many mobility initiatives that go around. The cars are there, the infrastructure is needed.