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Dr. Z's Commercials - And Buh-Bye

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Nice Guy Dr.Z Serving Libations to Media For Charity at Detroit Auto Show (Photo Copyright The Auto Channel)

Editor's Note: As Dr. Z hands over the keys of Daimler we say auf wiedersehen to a consummate car guy...all of us here at The Auto Channel will miss you. Our memories of Dr.Z serving (see attached picture at top of this article) up libations for tips to help raise money for the Detroit Fireman's Fund will forever be a fond memory of our Detroit Auto Show experience. ...Thank You and enjoy retirement (no way Jose).

SEE ALSO: 20 Years Of Dr. Z (Dieter Zetsche) On The Auto Channel

Originally Published 2006


By Marty Bernstein
Advertising and Marketing Editor

No matter where you live, there’s at least one owner/president/ceo of a new and/or used dealer appearing in television commercials. They’re all pretty much the same.

The Dealer, smartly attired in a suit that cost more than your first payment on a new house, in front of row of new cars or in a showroom, oozing confidence, charm, charisma and a hint of a show biz smile (think Regis Philbin’s extraordi-narily white teeth) telling you why you should come-on-down to that store.

Why certainly, they’ve got the best deal on the planet for the brand of cars, trucks, and SUV’s they sell. Sometimes a dog or kid or spandex clad sexy ac-tress is included for added interest and impact.

The pitch? Why, their vehicles, prices, service, mechanics, salesmen, of-fice managers and credit terms can not be beaten. They are the best! That’s why they win all the customer satisfaction awards.

So, someone obviously thought, if car dealers do it, why can’t car compa-nies do it? And some did and do.

Chrysler/Dodge – pre-Daimler – did it years ago with Lee Iacocca then president and CEO, when that company was in the financial dumpster. It worked. In recent memory Ford’s chairman, Bill Ford, Jr., did it with at least 3 different campaigns, which singularly or in totality didn’t work.

Then last summer (it must be the heat) DaimlerChrysler resurrected the vaunted former prexy and paired him with a rap star to pitch their vehicles with creative results that were disastrous.

But not to be daunted by a mélange of mediocre marketing, here we go again. Dieter Zetsche, the elegantly mustachioed president and chief executive office of DamilerChrysler is now appearing a series of five different commercials, pitching the benefits of, “experiencing the best of German and American engi-neering and design. Get employee pricing, plus zero percent financing on 2006 on Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles. If not satisfied, simply return it in 30 days.” Five different commercials on a theme. Do you hear a ring of familiarity? Does the word dealer come to mind?

If you have not seen the commercials, television viewing is not on your ac-tivity list. They are everywhere in a mega million media blitz that’s as big as some third world countries GNP.

I do not think these are bad commercials. But then, they’re not great ei-ther. They’re simply good … to a point. All the hallmarks of quality production from a top notch advertising agency, BBDO are present. The copy is good. Cam-era work is good. Direction is good. Production values are good. The actors are good. The settings are good. The props, other than a reporter taking notes in a non-reporter-notebook, are good.

Dr. Z is not an “actor” as one actor is a commercial, says he is. Dr. Z is the president and superpower leader of a huge and important international auto-mobile company employing thousands of people. What in the hell is he doing commercials for? He is not a huckster, just an executive playing one.

Would Carlos Ghosn or Rick Wagner or Koichi Amemiya or Yukitoshi Funo do commercials? I don’t think so. Macomb Bricklin? Oh, yeah he’d do commercials, but he do just about anything. Point made.

I have met Zetsche and was part of a few interview scrums. He is a charming, engaging, ebullient executive who has done a sensational turnaround job of at DCX in America. And he got the big promotion and the big bucks re-ward too. Why submit an application to the Screen Actors Guild? Why indeed.

The answer to one important question, “Did these commercials sell Chrys-ler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles?” will be answered in just a few weeks when the sales results from July are made public knowledge. Given the nation’s rising fuel costs, world unrest, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a few other things, car sales aren’t that good and probably won’t be.

I suggest advertising agencies leave the mediocre marketing and advertis-ing to those dealers with a showbiz bent, streak or envy. Some really think their commercials work and the casting is much better. Would you buy a car from this man? Hmm. <

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Post Dr. Z - Daimler plans sweeping review of costs amid change in CEOs

BERLIN May 24, 2019; Reuters reported that Daimler plans a sweeping cost review as CEO Dieter Zetsche bid farewell to shareholders following more than a decade at the helm of luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz.

Zetsche, who hands over the top job to 49-year-old Swede Ola Kaellenius, is credited with having returned Mercedes-Benz to the position of top-selling luxury car brand in 2016.

However, the shift toward electric vehicles, a sputtering global economy and rising costs to keep combustion engines clean have hit auto industry profit margins, forcing even profitable companies such as Daimler to renew cost-cutting efforts.

"Everything is under scrutiny: fixed and variable costs, material and personnel costs, investment projects, vertical integration and the product range," Zetsche told the company's annual general meeting in Berlin, where he was applauded by around 5,000 shareholders.

"Along with external factors, we are now also feeling the financial effects of the company's transformation," Zetsche said.

Pressure to develop electric and autonomous vehicles has seen r&d outlays at Mercedes-Benz passenger cars rise to 14 billion euros from around 8 billion euros four years ago.

At the same time, China, the world's largest car market, has seen sales momentum slow for nine months in a row, with a 5.2 percent fall in sales in March.

Mercedes-Benz became the top-selling luxury car brand again thanks to an emphasis on upscale design which appealed to youthful buyers thanks to large digital display screens.

The renaissance at the Mercedes-Benz brand came after the German company sold Chrysler, helping the carmaker to swing from a $1.2 billion loss in 2006, the first full year when Zetsche held the top job, to an operating profit of 11.1 billion euros in 2018.

But Daimler still faces heavy investments to retool Mercedes-Benz plants in the United States, China and Germany to build EVs and battery cells.

The German luxury carmaker is spending 10 billion euros to develop a raft of EVs so it can boast a carbon neutral fleet of cars and light trucks by 2039 and to avoid hefty fines by regulators.

To ensure that customers buy zero-emission vehicles, the Stuttgart, Germany, group said it was aiming to limit the price of new car technologies for customers.

"To do so, we have to cut costs and increase efficiency throughout the company," Zetsche said, as he confirmed the carmaker's full-year targets.

"This was expected, but it doesn't make it any better. In particular, we cannot and will not be satisfied with the current level of profitability."

Zetsche, an engineer nicknamed "Dr. Z" who joined the company in 1976, is due to become chairman of the supervisory board in 2021, following a standard two-year cooling off period.

Daimler's shareholders are also set to approve a new corporate structure, prompting calls from some shareholders for Daimler to consider more radical restructuring moves to unlock shareholder value.

Ingo Speich from fund manager Deka said that despite Daimler's success in gaining market share for Mercedes, shareholders had failed to see significant improvements in the company's share price and demanded that Daimler consider listing Daimler Trucks, a step that Daimler dismissed on Wednesday.

Instead, new CEO Kaellenius will devise ways to cut development costs for new Mercedes-Benz models by a significant amount by 2025 and will intensify alliances with rivals to improve margins.