Mercedes-Benz dealers are looking forward to a growing number of hybrids and electric vehicles still to come — especially dealers in California and the Pacific Northwest, where demand for EVs is high, said Jeff Swickard, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Board.
"Mercedes has always been a leader when it comes to new vehicle technology, and we think that will continue," Swickard told Automotive News.
Swickard is dealer principal of three Mercedes-Benz stores — in Seattle, Atlanta and Wilsonville, Ore., outside Portland. He has a total of nine new-vehicle dealerships, including franchises for BMW, Ford, Honda, Toyota and Volvo.
Dealers generally give Mercedes-Benz USA high marks for responsiveness to feedback, Swickard said. "They're very accessible for the dealer," he said. "They're much more accessible than I would have expected."
Swickard is relatively new to auto retail, with just five years in the business, all of them as a dealer principal. He said he was a dealer for about two years when he was first elected to the dealer board. He started a two-year term as chairman in December.
Before becoming a dealer, Swickard was CEO of Tel West Network Services Corp. in Austin, Texas, a provider of Internet, data and voice communications for businesses and government accounts. TelePacific Communications acquired it in 2011.
"From my maybe unique perspective, I've only seen 'ups' since I've been a dealer," he said.
In 2019, Mercedes-Benz USA reversed a two-year sales slide, hitting 357,729 vehicles, up 1 percent from 2018. U.S. sales had hit a record 374,541 in 2016. Those totals include commercial vans but not the discontinued Smart brand.
In December, Daimler said it would delay the U.S. introduction of the Mercedes-Benz EQC compact crossover, the brand's first fully battery-powered model, to 2021 instead of the first quarter of this year. That's to meet consumer demand in Europe and tougher emissions standards, according to the automaker.
Swickard was philosophical about the delay.
"Although the EQC launch was delayed here in the U.S.," he said, "the reception in Europe has been positive, and M-B will launch a number of new fully electric and hybrid vehicles over the next several years."