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All Mercedes-Benz’s cars contain piece of Korea: CEO

Chief of German luxury carmaker meets top executives of SK, LG

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : Aug. 24, 2023 - 15:01

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Mercedes-Benz Group CEO Ola Kallenius poses with the Maybach EQS sports utility vehicle before a press conference at Hotel Shilla in central Seoul on Thursday. (Mercedes-Benz Korea) Mercedes-Benz Group CEO Ola Kallenius poses with the Maybach EQS sports utility vehicle before a press conference at Hotel Shilla in central Seoul on Thursday. (Mercedes-Benz Korea)

Mercedes-Benz Group CEO Ola Kallenius on Thursday touted South Korea’s level of automotive technology and the importance of the German automaker’s partnership with Korean companies.

“Korea is hugely important for us. But not just in the battery cell space where we have strong partnerships for years,” said Kallenius in a press conference at Hotel Shilla in central Seoul.

“This is one of the leading nations in automotive innovation and I don’t think we build a single Mercedes around the world without a piece of Korea in those cars. So from a technology point of view, Korea is important to us in many different technical verticals.”

The CEO reiterated Mercedes-Benz’s goal to go 100 percent electric in its new car lineup by 2030, noting that such transformation will take place in markets where EV conditions, charging station infrastructure in particular, are sufficiently set up.

“We are going to make a decision this year to do more in Korea. We will up the ante for charging for Mercedes BEVs in the Korean market,” said Kallenius, referring to all-battery electric vehicles.

The CEO did not hesitate to show love to Korea, which is Mercedes-Benz's fourth-largest market across the globe, only behind China, Germany and the United States. Mentioning how Korean culture such as K-pop, drama and food has “taken the world by storm” and become a major trendsetter, Kallenius even introduced himself as “K-allenius.”

From left: Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV, EQE, Maybach EQS, EQS and EQS SUV (Mercedes-Benz Korea) From left: Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV, EQE, Maybach EQS, EQS and EQS SUV (Mercedes-Benz Korea)

Mercedes-Benz Korea’s annual sales surpassed 7 trillion won ($5.3 billion) for the first time last year since its establishment 20 years ago while becoming the first auto importer to sell over 80,000 units in a year.

Asked about potential plans to build a Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant in Korea, the CEO pointed out that the automaker does not focus on having a large vehicle production volume, and the demand has to be quite significant in order to consider building a production site.

“We are not at that stage in the Korean market. Should we be there one day? We shall see,” he said. “That’s down to economics when you decide the size of a plant and where you put it. But we are hugely committed to this market.”

Regarding Mercedes-Benz’s recent announcement to adopt Tesla’s North American Charging Standard, the CEO said the decision was made to offer the most convenience for the German automaker’s customers in the region.

During his two-day trip to Korea, the CEO met with the German automaker’s key supply partners to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation. He later on Thursday met with Kwon Bong-seok, vice chairman of LG Group, and Jeong Ho-young, CEO of LG Display, to talk about product quality and innovation between the two parties. On the previous day, Kallenius also sat down with Chey Jae-won, executive vice chairman of SK Group and co-chief of the conglomerate’s battery-making firm SK On, to discuss their partnership in EV batteries and SK's navigation service Tmap.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled the Maybach EQS, the first all-battery EV sports utility vehicle of the automaker’s top-end brand, during the media event. The EV SUV is estimated to have a driving distance of 600 kilometers per charge. The Maybach EQS is expected to be officially launched in Korea next year.

The automaker also displayed Mercedes-AMG’s Vision AMG, a concept vehicle envisioning the future of high-performance EVs, along with the automakers’ existing EVs such as EQE and EQS at the event venue. There were no Mercedes-Benz models powered by internal combustion engines on display, illustrating the company’s will go to all-electric for carbon neutrality in the future.

Mercedes-AMG's Vision (Mercedes-Benz Korea) Mercedes-AMG's Vision (Mercedes-Benz Korea)