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Mercedes-Benz debuts new E-Class, taking cue from Korean drivers

By Byun Hye-jin

Published : Jan. 19, 2024 - 16:06

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(From left) Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Mathias Vaitl, Oliver Thone, vice president of product strategy and steering of Mercedes-Benz AG and Kilian Thelen, vice president of product, marketing and digital business at Mercedes-Benz Korea, pose for a photo before a press conference in Seoul on Friday. (Mercedes-Benz Korea) (From left) Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Mathias Vaitl, Oliver Thone, vice president of product strategy and steering of Mercedes-Benz AG and Kilian Thelen, vice president of product, marketing and digital business at Mercedes-Benz Korea, pose for a photo before a press conference in Seoul on Friday. (Mercedes-Benz Korea)

Mercedes-Benz said Friday it is poised to roll out nine new cars in Korea this year, highlighting the strategic importance of the Korean market for the German luxury carmaker.

The new lineups include five full-change models – the E-Class sedan, CLE Coupé, CLE Cabriolet, Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV and electric G-Class – and four face-lift models – the Mercedes-Benz GLS, EQA, EQB and G-Class.

One of the key launches is the 11th-generation E-Class sedan, a complete revamp from the 10th version in 2016, according to the Korean unit.

“Korea is the No. 1 market for the E-Class sedan. Since 2016, the E-Class has been the best-selling model in the imported car market for eight consecutive years even at the end of its life cycle,” said Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Mathias Vaitl during a press conference in Seoul. “It truly demonstrates its unmatching popularity and enduring appeal among Korean customers.”

Oliver Thone, vice president of product strategy and steering of Mercedes-Benz AG, noted that understanding the preferences and needs of Korean customers are of tremendous importance. They were incorporated into the development phase of the new E-Class in its design and digital features.

A total of seven E-Class models, including plug-in hybrid versions, are set to be unveiled. For the high-end Exclusive model, Thone hinted that the carmaker took a cue from a very specific request from Korean drivers.

Building on its 75 years of heritage, the sedan blends traditional and contemporary elements into its exterior design. The side view shows the harmonious proportions of a classic three-box limousine while becoming longer and wider compared to its previous model, according to Kilian Thelen, vice president of product, marketing and digital business at Mercedes-Benz Korea.

The car can be unlocked with a digital key using an iPhone and Apple Watch. The company is looking into expanding the service for Galaxy phones as well.

As for the infotainment system, it offers a wide range of local music and video streaming apps -- Essential, FLO, Wavve and Melon. The Tmap Mobility navigation service will also be available from the second half of this year.

Next to the 14.4-inch high-resolution LCD central display, lies the optional MBUX Superscreen. The front passengers can enjoy the video and entertainment content, but the display view is blocked from the driver’s seat to prevent safety concerns while driving.

Stressing that Korea is one of the leading markets in the ranking of Mercedes-Benz’s online sales, Thelen said the company has prepared a premier special model only available in 214 units from Jan. 25 in its online store.

This year, Mercedes-Benz Korea will open the Mercedes-Maybach Brand Center, the world’s first Maybach dedicated showroom, in Gangnam, Seoul, catering to the burgeoning demand for ultra-luxury cars here. Korea became the world’s second-largest Maybach market in 2023.

It also plans to introduce the High-Power Charging Network with a charging speed of up to 350 kilowatts for Mercedes-Benz car owners and other EV drivers. By 2025, it will install 150 charging points across 25 sites nationwide.

Last year, the Korean unit sold 76,697 units, a 5.3 percent drop from 2022. Its sales of premium models -- the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class and GLS -- surged 32 percent to 2,596 units, an all-time high record. The eight electric vehicle lineups saw an 83.4 percent jump to 9,184 units, marking a record-breaking performance since it first introduced electric cars in 2019.