The Mercedes-Benz factory showroom in Berlin is a massive structure.
Mercedes-Benz World, with its tall angular glass sides, is just off the Strasse des 17 Juni in the western part of the city, maybe a mile or so from the Brandenburg Gate.
Outside, there are probably 600 or 700 used vehicles parked in a lot that wraps around the building. Many of the cars have window stickers touting 2.9 or 3.9 percent financing terms.
Inside, there are some 300 new cars on the showroom floor. Actually, they're on four levels. Ramps that wind around the inside perimeter connect the levels.
The building looks like a grand shining museum or an overgrown stand from an international auto show, although the brochures are all in German.
Most of the showroom cars are silver, but there also is a smattering of grey, black and blue vehicles. As you would expect, many of the cars are diesels, but even the gasoline engines are small. Most are two liters or smaller.
Mercedes-Benz World was built in 1998. It was then - and still is - the world's largest Mercedes-Benz dealership. But it is much more.
The factory store often is used for events, such as fashion shows and other activities. It once attracted 10,000 visitors to watch a World Cup soccer game on its big screen.
Each year, Mercedes-Benz World attracts about 1 million visitors. It is open 24 hours a day, but sales end at 8 p.m.
It feels more like a public meeting place than a dealership. Visitors aren't greeted with a high-pressure sales pitch. Yet the factory store sells about 2,000 new vehicles each year.
Even late Saturday afternoon, customers were poking around inside and on the lot.
Across a little patio there is a much-smaller Smart showroom, which occupies the first floor of an office building. A lot adjacent to the Smart showroom contains about 200 Smart cars.
It is the largest Smart center in the world, yet it is dwarfed by the Mercedes-Benz showroom.Independent Mercedes dealers in Berlin initially were worried about the factory store. They were concerned that it would steal sales.But that hasn't happened.
In fact, dealers from around Berlin take their best customers toMercedes-Benz World to show models that they can't hold in their own showrooms.
How would U.S. dealers embrace such a concept? Can you imagine a Ford World in Los Angeles, or a GM Ville in New York?
Some things probably just don't translate.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at