Mike Jackson, president of Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc., was the keynote speaker during the opening general session of the National Automobile Dealers Association convention.
Jackson was an 11th-hour replacement for DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Juergen Schrempp, who had canceled because of a scheduling conflict.
Afterward, Jackson spoke with a small group of reporters, including Staff Reporter Ralph Kisiel. What follows is an edited transcript of his observations on various topics.
How will you help Mercedes-Benz dealers respond to the increase in customers shopping on the Internet?
We have developed proprietary software systems that we feel connect our retail organization and ourselves at another whole level and that allow us to fulfill the needs that exist with both our customers and our retailers.
Are most of your dealers already equipped with computers?
They are all very well equipped. The issue is that they are all on different systems with different life cycles with different solutions and different softwares. Here you have this fantastic investment in information technology that is not able to talk to each other.
We've got to find a way out of that, to have the processes in place so that we can seamlessly perform and meet our customers expectations in the future.
What's the latest on the possible development of a Mercedes-Benz minivan?
The project is still very much under way. I believe they are looking to make a decision in the spring.
The management board within the passenger-car division has not made a go/no-go decision yet, let alone go to the DaimlerChrysler AG management board or the supervisory board.
What is your reaction to the Ford-Volvo deal?
It's a good deal. It makes a lot of sense for both sides. That one didn't surprise me at all.
How about the shakeup at BMW?
What concerns do you have with your (advertising) agency, Lowe & Partners (part of the Lowe Group unit of Interpublic Group) in New York?
We have had concerns about difficulties at Lowe for most of last year, and we have raised our level of concern as we've gone along. So far, we have not seen a resolution that is satisfactory.
In this consolidation that is occurring in the auto industry, we're keenly aware that GM is a big client of the Interpublic Group, particularly of Lowe in other places of the world.
We have concern that sooner or later that will create a conflict that is not resolvable. It is on those kinds of issues that we're having intense discussions with Lowe.