When Daimler Chrysler launched the first 300C in China, Chinese consumers shied away from the model due to a perceived lack of luxury in the rear of the car whilst the majority of luxury items were focused towards the driver. For luxury Chinese car owners the driver isn’t always the cars owner, hence Mercedes focus on rear seat luxury in the latest S-Class.
Daimler Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche was leaning back in the rear seat of a prototype Mercedes-Benz S-class sedan in 2010 when he realized it didn’t recline far enough.
With wealthy consumers accustomed to sumptuous airline seats, he figured Mercedes needed to approach that level of comfort in its flagship model.
So Zetsche had his designers create a back seat that reclines to an industry-leading 43.5-degree angle, which will be available as an option on versions of the revamped S-class unveiled Wednesday night at an event in Hamburg, Germany.
The car arrived in an Airbus freight plane from Daimler’s headquarters in Stuttgart, rolling out under a shower of fireworks and escorted by other vehicles from Mercedes’s lineup. The debut was accompanied by singer Alicia Keys, an 18-member orchestra and food by five Michelin-starred chefs.
“We have invested massively in the S-class and for good reason,” said Zetsche at the presentation at an Airbus factory. “The S-class is for Mercedes what the port is for Hamburg, the ‘Mona Lisa’ for Leonardo da Vinci, and ‘Satisfaction’ for the Rolling Stones.”
For back-seat sleeping, the front passenger seat slides forward to add legroom and the backrest slips into a recess illuminated by ambient lighting. A calf support swivels forward and a heel rest pulls out of the front seat. A hot-stone-massage function in the seat aids relaxation on long drives. There’s even a special air bag to prevent slumbering passengers from sliding under the seat belt during an accident.
Back-seat amenities are critical to reviving the Mercedes brand among well-heeled Chinese, who account for more than half of all worldwide sales of the S-class. Sales of the car, which starts at about $151,000 in China and runs from $92,350 to $212,000 in the United States, are key for Daimler’s bottom line. In the first quarter, Mercedes’s operating profit margin was 3.3 percent, versus 11.1 percent at Audi and 9.9 percent at BMW.