With the new smart electric drive, smart electrifies its entire product range, paving the way for a sustainable future. As part of the Global Training Experience in Valencia, Spain, more than 2,300 smart dealers and service consultants got to get up close with the new models. The mind behind the event‘s training concept: Dorothea Berner of Mercedes-Benz Global Training.
Tucked away in Valencia’s harbor, the event location’s architecture already hints at what’s to come: The David Chipperfield-designed conference center exudes a futuristic appeal, yet remains fully focused on function and premium experiences. Just like the new smart electric drive, a true city champion designed for clean and highly flexible mobility in urban surroundings. Just recently, thousands of international smart dealers flocked to Valencia to experience the benefits of the new electric smart fortwo and smart forfour models first-hand, up close, and behind the wheel: At the Global Training Experience (GTE), they gathered valuable on-road impressions and learned all the technical details that make the new models what they are.
The Global Training Experience teaches dealers everything they need to know about what might be today’s most progressive electric car: the new smart electric drive. What was your own, initial reaction after test driving the new model?
Dorothea Berner: A huge grin – and feeling certain that all our hard work on this product is well worth it. Our customers can really look forward to a sprightly city speedster! With the smart electric drive, smart brand gains an especially important new USP while staying true to its core values. It’s the perfect city car – driven by electricity!
To convey this unique experience to dealers at smart centers, the brand invited thousands of international sales professionals to Valencia. Just how much of a logistical challenge did this turn out to be?
Dorothea Berner: GTE is one of our training formats at Daimler where we invite dealers and sales specialists to a campus specially designed for this purpose. Here, in Valencia, we have more than 140 cars on location and train around 2,300 dealers and service consultants from more than 20 countries over the course of a month. We bring all these people together with experts, products, and exhibits – that’s a massive challenge, but also a very rewarding one.
Finding a common denominator for all those international smart markets sounds like a complex challenge. When and where does your work on such a project start?
Dorothea Berner: I’ve been planning the GTE Valencia since September 2016. My work starts at my desk with the actual concept. Before this, I need to talk to many people: the product management, the trainers, and the dealers. I ask the participating markets about their needs and what they expect from the event.
How do you manage to address and square all these different stakeholder requirements?
Dorothea Berner: Finding just the right mix and blend is the main challenge and one we pursue every day. This advance coordination and reconciliation is what makes it so interesting. For example, product management might want to emphasize specific topics, while trainers favor high-quality training materials and a good mix of methods. Not to forget the participants themselves who want to enjoy the event and learn a lot without getting overwhelmed.
In front of the Veles e Vents, the Mediterranean glistens in the mid-morning sun. The event has started: All training groups are busy at the stations. After their first test drives, everyone enthuses about the unique highlights of the new smart electric drive range: locally emission-free mobility, hugely enjoyable handling thanks to the electric engine’s high torque, and impressive flexibility.
The two-seater smart fortwo and the four-seater smart forfour are already available as electric versions, with the smart fortwo cabrio, the world’s only electric convertible in its class, to follow in summer.
Is it even possible to put the smart electric drive driving experience into words? Or is this something you simply have to experience yourself?
Dorothea Berner: You’re right: You can’t replace the personal experience, so we invite all dealers to spend a lot of time behind the wheel. And we don’t ask the participants to drive in fixed convoys, giving them a very different sense of freedom than people usually get on organized test drives. Here, they experience the city-optimized reach first-hand, but also get to try out the competition: What’s it like to drive other brands? This helps dealers make accurate comparisons when talking to customers, allowing them to better address customer questions and needs. It’s all about fairness and understanding the general automotive landscape, so this aspect takes up a third of our training schedule.
Beyond behind-the-wheel impressions: What about the theoretical aspects of the training event?
Dorothea Berner: Besides technical insights we have a training station that answers customer questions on technical topics and charging issues. How does electric charging work? What options come with a wallbox? How do you pay at public charging stations? Our training addresses these questions and also tries to make dealers aware of local deals and options in their respective markets.
With the new smart electric drive and the smart “ready to …“ services, smart has underscored its role as an urban mobility pioneer. What’s it like to help shape this ground-breaking phase?
Dorothea Berner: smart is all about forward thinking. Within Daimler, and with its entirely electrified fleet, smart is clearly ahead of the curve, taking a leading role in this matter. It’s certainly fun to be part of that. E-mobility is coming and we’re right in the thick of it. I often think: “Cool, we get to be real pioneers here.“
Your training measures increasingly involve multimedia, e. g. virtual reality test drives. Just how important are such innovative digital tools?
Dorothea Berner: With our events, we want to serve as a beacon for the sales team, actively introducing the digital transformation into their working lives. Naturally, we need to remain innovative. For example, we created a smartphone app for all participants with on-demand content on the event and location. And we took our guests on a virtual test drive of Valencia during the opening event. Equipped with VR headsets, they can join product manager Rouven Remp on a trip through the city’s palm tree-lined boulevards and winding, narrow alleyways.
So, the training campus also radiates the smart typical “joy of life”?
Dorothea Berner: Yes, we care about a fun, laid-back atmosphere. This year, we combined elements of gamification and explorative learning. Equipped with tablets, participants get small tasks or quests to complete on their own in and around the car. We also have details like a DJ spinning his stuff during coffee breaks at the smart forgigs. We want to make learning fun.