Struggling to keep pace with BMW and Audi in China, Mercedes-Benz has taken dealers in that country to task. In a strongly worded letter, Daimler China sales chief Nicholas Speeks accused them of laziness and threatened consequences.
"Your performance as dealers worries me," he wrote in a February letter obtained by our sibling publication Automobilwoche. "A telemarketer in a call center could achieve these low sales volumes."
Speeks added that any dealer who fails to meet Mercedes' standards must expect consequences "no matter how good our business relationship has been in the past."
In the first quarter, Mercedes sales in China dropped 12 percent to 45,440, while BMW sales rose nearly 8 percent to 86,224 and Audi sales jumped 14 percent to 102,810.
It's not the first time in the history of the car business that dealers have been scolded by the factory. Still, Rainer Gehnen, head of the German-Chinese Trade Association, warned that the letter could poison Daimler's relations with its dealers.
"This mode of expression is a no-go for business correspondence, even in Germany," Gehnen said.
"In China, where saving face is important, it will have a downright catastrophic effect and could irreparably damage business relationships. This is certainly not the way to motivate Chinese workers or dealers."