BY JENNIFER SCHREIER PELCZARSKI
For some companies there lives a spark, a longstanding commit- ment to go beyond the ordinary. Mercedes-Benz, the inventor of the automobile, has for over 125 years established itself as a company that goes beyond engineering excellence and is synonymous with innovation.
Johann Jungwirth, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. (MBRDNA) has had the
honor and privilege for the past 16 years to actively lead Research & Development of Mercedes-Benz Cars with a singularly straight- forward vision: “The best or nothing.”
This distinctive role has helped him to shape the future of Mercedes-Benz in different areas and countries around the world. Jungwirth’s career has been a journey that has allowed him to spearhead efforts coast-to-coast, across the United States and now back to Silicon Valley, where the ‘think-tank’ for New Technologies, Innovations and Visionary Trends is located.
“What really drives me is the pas- sion for cars, passion for the best cars and the ambition to take the Mercedes-Benz brand to higher levels. As a leader, I take great pride in driving top performance, combined with focus, precision and collaborative teamwork across continents around the world. This is what continues to propel this organization to greater success, year-after-year, as the top luxury car brand.”
The engineering genius of MBRDNA is headquartered in Palo Alto, California and is part of the Daimler Group, and a wholly- owned subsidiary of Daimler North America Corporation. This organization has a longstanding tradition built on a strong commitment to innovation, ingenuity and workable business solutions to drive the advancement of safe, convenient and sustainable vehicles.
To create the best solutions for Mercedes-Benz, Smart Car and Maybach customers, collaborative partnerships have been forged with leading consumer electronics and IT companies. There is only one goal in mind — develop the most attractive and innovative vehicles that provide the best overall customer experience. Partnering with best-in-class companies has all contributed to enhanced content and cutting edge technologies.
Right from the 125th year anniversary celebration at the end of January 2011. Daimler started the Mercedes-Benz F-CELL World Drive to go around the world in 125 days. This is an unparalleled long distance journey with the B-Class F-CELL to demonstrate the technical maturity of its fuel cell-powered electric vehicles. The Linde Group was selected as the exclusive hydrogen partner for this monumental endeavor.
In addition, Daimler’s strategic partnership with Tesla has supported Mercedes-Benz greatly to accelerate the commercialization of electric drives globally. Tesla has engineered in-house battery packs for the Smart Fortwo electric drive and the E-CELL version of its subcompact A-Class.
Daimler understands the importance of making the most of the great potential of electric mobility. The company recently signed a contract with BYD (Build Your Dreams) to develop electric cars in China. This new joint venture is well positioned and the establishment of a research and technology center with BYD adds another dimension to a growing presence in this important market. The vehicles are to be launched under a new brand in 2013.
Technology such as the “Search and Send” service, allows Mercedes-Benz customers with the mbrace Services in the United States to send any destination from Google Maps to their vehicles and use it in their navigation system. In Europe and other parts of the world, Mercedes-Benz has introduced its new COMAND Online Infotainment System with additional Google Services like Google Local Search and was first-to-market with Google Send-Route-to-Car. Customers can send completely individualized routes from Google Maps to their vehicles.
“What really satisfies me is to see that our customers really love and enjoy our products. To ensure that we are closely monitoring trends and developments in the industry, we are engaging customers in the design and development process, especially when it comes to testing the usability and acceptance of new user interface approaches. Through this development process, we are coming up with innovative solutions and designs that also create an emotional attachment. This coupled with solutions that embrace the digital lifestyle of our customers for the best possible user experience is another key to our success.”
The inspiration behind being the leading luxury car brand is clearly to think outside the box. To continuously reinvent itself with a great focus on leading innovations, year after year, decade after decade. The result has been more than 125 years of creating products and new generations of products that are setting the standard for the industry.
“At the Shanghai Autoshow in April the Mercedes-Benz Concept A-Class was unveiled. Imagine a vehicle with an infotainment solution based on a smartphone with a complete connected feature-set based on customers’ digital lifestyle. This includes Internet Radio, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and eMail support, all driven by an iPhone application completely designed and developed in Palo Alto, California. Graphics designers, user interface developers, software as well as hardware engineers have all been working closely together to create this new solution to bring our Infotainment Solution to the next level. The revolutionary graphics includes 3D design effects, glowing glass elements being illuminated with magenta colors and intuitive, as well as fluid transitions. These rich animations support a fantastic and very user friendly interface.”
Jungwirth realizes the need to be ahead of the curve when it comes to innovative solutions. By embracing full connectivity to the Internet with a browser and backend platform integration, creating convenient and easy-to-use smartphone integrations has enabled the company to close the gap between the long vehicle development cycle and the fast-paced development cycle of consumer electronics with smartphone apps and internet web-apps.
A great example was the smart drive app for the iPhone. Being first-to-market with Internet Radio and a smartphone app for use while driving from an Automotive OEM, MBRDNA was the recipient of two coveted Mobile Excellence Awards in 2010. This was a great achievement and the first-time for any automobile manufacturer to win such a prestigious industry-wide award for its mobile innovation.
To select the right set of mobile and cloud-based applications customers need and expect in the different markets speaks volumes on how to engage customers worldwide. It also speaks to the focus on what customers really need while performing their driving tasks and keeping drivers’ distraction to a minimal level with the added value of having attractive and intuitive user interfaces.
Jungwirth sums up his strategy: “The passion and fire to always improve and invent better solutions, create perfect and aesthetic designs as well as thrilling innovations, drives me and drives our company. It is all about delivering the best products to our customers. I am fully committed, along with our 200 great and motivated employees here in the U.S., with an unwavering desire and willingness to succeed. Through great vision, unparalleled inspiration and passion, we will propel Research & Development at Mercedes-Benz to the next level.”