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CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, is looking for a few good Gen Y customers to buy into the heritage brand

Steve Cannon’s automotive career began in 1991 when he was executive assistant to the CEO of Mercedes-Benz of North America. From there he moved to Stuttgart to join the small team that launched the M-Class, the first Mercedes-Benz SUV ever made in, and for, this market. Now is he the current CEO of Mercedes-Benz with a new vision to attract a market Mercedes-Benz has ignored in the past, Gen Y.

“We’ve got a story that no other manufacturer can tell,” Cannon says, referring to the company’s claim that they built the first automobile 125 years ago. Mercedes also has right to claim they were the first to use ABS and airbags, among other now-standard safety features. Cannon, who served as MBUSA’s vice president of marketing until he was appointed CEO in January, knows and supports the company’s long history of innovation while keeping a steady hand on safety, mostly because he’s helped drive it.

Cannon also is the driving force behind the launch of a new class of vehicles as well as the embrace2, the company’s upgraded in-car digital technology platform. Both the car and the technology are designed to appeal to a younger, virtually connected and cost-conscious consumer. This new marketing approach to connect with the Gen Y customer also includes the A-Class compact, which will debut at $30,000, much less sticker shock than most Mercedes-Benz currently out.

Reaching out to the needs of the Gen Y customer Cannon says MBUSA made a “heavy investment” in social media and some of the features in the mbrace2 that will be installed standard in every new Mercedes-benz. Mbrace2’s 3G connectivity (for cloud-based upgrades) and apps (social media, keyless entry), for example, came from a simple question: “Why should I pay an extra $3,000 for GPS when I have it on my phone?”

Whether it is putting 20-somethings behind the wheel of the most expensive S-Class vehicles, or the new A-Class compact, Cannon believes this is going to help MBUSA compete in an increasingly tougher luxury market. They’re not the target market, but their perception is going to drive perception of the brand,” he observes, “In order to win, you have to know who they are. That means digital, social, and all the things we are doing.”

So by putting customer experience at the top of MBUSA’s priority list –something Cannon says could use improvement– he’s placing himself on the front line to defend Mercedes’ high standard of excellence. “How can you have anything lower for a brand that espouses the best or nothing?”

For more information on the mbrace2 and A-Class compact, check out your local Mercedes dealer in Arizona!

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