Dr. Ulf Ausprung, CEO of Hansung Motor, had a special lecture last 25th at a university with a theme ‘Marketing strategies for the import car market in Korea.’
It’s a rare event that a foreign CEO offers such a lecture at a top-ranking university in Korea, even on a regular program. While around 20 import brands are available in the Korean market, Dr. Ausprung is the only CEO who makes a regular speech for collegians.
CEO Ausprung has been providing special lectures to the university students since 2013 in order to enhance their understanding on the Korean as well as global auto industry. During the last 18 years he has been delivering special lectures at a number of universities in the world, such as Swiss Luzern university and other leading European colleges, Beijing Qinghwa university, Shanghai Tongji university, etc. pertaining to his practical observations and know-hows obtained through his mission as CEO of Mercedes-Benz in Bahrain as well as his diversified undertakings in Germany, China, USA, France, UK, Switzerland, etc. in charge of sales and marketing.
For the lecture at Korea University on 25th, the growth model of Hansung Motor as a forerunner of the Korean import car brands for some 30 years was the subject and his presentation on the marketing strategies for the import car brands in Korea. His objective for lecturing at universities is to help young students enhance creativity and help cope with challenges through communication with them.
In order to get some more of his thoughts and views about Mercedes-Benz and Hansung Motor, the AutoDaily interviewed him after the class.
Q: It was a nice lecture. How was the lesson?
A: My previous lecture was assisted by an interpreter, but this time it was more comfortable with no interpretation. The main subjects of lectures so far have been brand strategy combined with design, but this time marketing strategy was the topic. At the Beijing lecture, I focused more on industrial design.
Q: Beforehand, you had special lessons at Yonsei and Hongik universities, and such activities seem to be somewhat extraordinary for a foreign CEO. What are you going to deliver to the young students?
A: At the lectures in China, I felt that students are just studying only on their majors. Those who are majoring design, for example, they have interest only on design itself without any knowledge on the market’s demand and its application in the real world. Students should pay more attention on why they study the specific subject and how they can apply their knowledge for the real world, rather than just reading books objectlessly. So, I hope to help them get the sense on the real world and practical knowledge. Furthermore, it would be important to have them know what quality the company requires and what they should prepare for the requirements.
Q: The local import car market is getting fiercer and more challenging, even if the potential is magnificent. What do you think would be the effective marketing strategy?
A: Hansung Motor surely is a market pioneer. We have been endeavoring to get its stronghold at the import car market during the last 30 years. Hansung always pursued new and innovative ones. Whatever event or marketing, Hansung has been a leader for dealers, and a forerunner with the first trial in the market.
The recent trend in the import car market is that the consumers are getting younger and younger. Hence, Hansung held for the first time its own motor show, and is the first service provider for Kakaotalk plus friend app. We also released our own application for the first time in order to expand our contacts with young people.
The threshold for import car is still high, however. Customers are not convenient to come to the show rooms. Hence rather than waiting for their visits, we are going out to meet with them outside. BDC(Business Development Center) will be the post for caring of customers, and various marketing activities will be offered for meetings with them.
Q: Sometimes Hansung Motor is reported in the media as a target foreign company. What do you feel about such a report?
A: I do not agree to the classification of Hansung Motor as a foreign company, but a Korean company. Of the 1,400 employees 99% are Koreans, only except for me. Rather than calling a foreign-owned company, please understand that I am endeavoring to adapt to a Korean company.
I am of a German nationality, but not a typical bureaucratic German CEO. I am frequently asking for advice, while hearing others’ opinions with regard to marketing and organizing events. I am obtaining good ideas in the field through a lot of discussions. Hansung is a dealer, but the only dealer who utilizes its own market data and analysis for specific marketing strategies, and also operates a call center BDC. Various useful opinions are gathered through the BDC.
I personally have diverse experiences in a lot of countries in Europe, China and Middle East. Those experiences are helpful in developing an example case and also in lessening trials and errors. Recently a second-hand car business is expanding in Korea, and my job in Germany for the used car business is quite helpful.
I am planning to do more innovative businesses here in the future, while keeping up with global market trend such like digital marketing.
Q: The biggest import car dealer Hansung is required to spend its resources more for social contribution activities. Do you have any specific plans for that?
A: We are viewing the social contributions on a longer-term plan. As an initial step, Hansung has been sponsoring a fine art genius program, ‘DreamGrim’ scholarship since 2012, and has raised the fund twice this year.
The ‘Mercedes-Benz Promise’ program was also initiated last year, and we are an active sponsor for it. In the meantime, we are also co-working with Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture for various social activities.
In the future, such social programs will be expanded further, and our new activities will be observed more frequently.
Q: The art performance and cultural marketing is gaining its importance for import car brands, and do you have any specific plans in this regard?
A: When I first took office four year ago, Hansung Motor had an image of a traditional and static company handling heavy luxury sedans. Customers were also older generations.
When I participate in a company event of October-fest, I am pleased to get the feeling that younger people are joining more than before.
Not only Hansung but other global arms of Mercedes-Benz have been focusing on attracting young generation on top of the existing consumers. In accordance with market trend and product lineups, our marketing activities are programmed for satisfying respective customer classes.
By dividing consumers by each segment, appropriate methods are adopted. As for S class or Maybach customers luxury events for wines, cigars, watches, etc. are provided, while for SUV owners an outdoor event like camping is offered.
The overall market trend and brand tendency are toward younger generation, but various marketing tools are still used for meeting different consumer preferences.
Q: In order to have a harmonized brand image of Mercedes-Benz, the collaboration between all dealers will be necessary, for which what are you doing?
A: For competing with other brands, such amicable relations are necessary, while competition between dealers are also maintained.
Dealers are cooperating and competing each other according to an official guideline under the umbrella of Mercedes-Benz Korea.
Any dealer may propose new marketing strategies or customer programs to the importer.
Q: What is the secret of setting in as the best brand in the global market?
A: I joined Mercedes-Benz in 1994. Basically high quality product lineups are mandatory. If those products are of hardware, the software will be well-organized sales networks and quality services.
In fact, the brand image has changed a lot recently. The past bureaucratic and conventional feelings gave way to more emotional and compassionate direction. More delicate and classy design was adopted, and is appealing to consumers with a slogan ‘The Best or Nothing.’
The brand positioning has been newly aligned, and accordingly the product quality has significantly improved. The sales and service networks are also upgraded applying higher level standards and stricter procedures.
Q: The boundary between general brands and luxury brands are getting more and more blurred. What do you think is the traits of luxury brands?
A: A luxury brand require a lot of time. First of all, product capability is the basic. A certain level of stabilized quality should be backed up in terms of safety, technology, state-of-the-art features, etc.
Over such a hardware, a history is a necessity. Not only Mercedes-Benz but BMW, Audi, etc. are telling a diversity of stories based on their long historical backdrops.
Q: Hyundai Motor has recently inaugurated a Genesis brand. What will be the distinguishing characteristics for the luxury brand?
A: The philosophy of Mercedes-Benz pursuing ultimate safety, the fun of driving for BMW based on high performance, and Audi’s quattro represent the specific trait of each brand. Rather than equipping all features, focusing on its own integrity and individuality is more important.