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Old 13th November 2009, 15:05   #1
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Default Mercedes Mines China for Global Car Designs

BEIJING—A decade ago, in search of inspiration for an ultra-luxurious Mercedes-Benz, designer Olivier Boulay studied Japan's chauffeur-car culture.

Now, as he dreams about the future of the automobile, he zips around Beijing on a $367 electric bike, along with throngs of the city's residents.

"China is the perfect place to think about the future shape of mobility," said Mr. Boulay, the 52-year-old design chief for Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz unit in China, who moved to Beijing from Tokyo this year to set up a design studio. "It's my job here to push my staff to push the envelope and think about the global automotive future from Beijing."

Mr. Boulay reflects a major shift in the car industry. As the Chinese market expands, global auto makers increasingly are making design decisions in China. The result is that consumer trends in China are being seen in models sold around the world.

While China accounts for only about 4% of overall Mercedes sales, customers elsewhere are getting features the Chinese like, including bigger, limousine-like back seats with more-advanced entertainment and climate-control systems. In China, many upscale buyers have chauffeurs and drive on their own only on weekends. Such customers also are generally in their 30s and 40s—much younger than elsewhere. They prefer light-colored interiors, not the somber blacks and grays popular in other regions.

Source: Mercedes Mines China for Global Car Designs - WSJ.com
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