LOS ANGELES -- Mercedes-Benz USA LLC and its 17 dealerships in Southern California hope their association with haute couture will create hot sales.
For the third year, the automaker and dealerships are sponsoring Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, a twice-yearly event in Los Angeles.
Jill Martinette, marketing manager for Mercedes-Benz's Los Angeles region, says the sponsorship is important to the brand because it attracts consumers who are seeking stylish, upscale vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz also wants to attract younger, professional buyers, especially to its entry-level C230 sport sedan.
"These people are interested in things fashionable, in being trendsetters," Martinette says. "We thought this was a perfect blend."
Last month, at Mercedes-Benz's spring fashion week, 32 designers from the Los Angeles area presented their fall collections. The automaker will hold another event this fall.
The event costs Mercedes-Benz slightly less than $1 million a year, Martinette says. Sponsorships by Mercedes-Benz dealerships defray the bulk of those costs, she adds.
Stephen Smythe, president of Mercedes-Benz Beverly Hills, says the money to sponsor Fashion Week comes from dealerships' regional advertising fund. He calls the event an ideal way to reach out to younger buyers.
"When you think of youth driving imports, you think of the Audi 4 or the BMW 3 series," Smythe says. "But we're learning that young people like our cars. We meet people at these events, and they come back to buy."
Mercedes-Benz says it sold 61,494 vehicles in California in 2004, a 4.1 percent gain over 2003.
Martinette says Mercedes can trace at least 100 sales last year to buyers who said they learned about its vehicles from Fashion Week activities.
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