Mercedes-Benz’s DMV-certified Teen Driving Academy expands

This new program aims to create responsible drivers, provides workshops for parents and their kids and is inspired by the high teen car-crash rates.

  • Is Mercedes-Benz is a more viable option than traditional driving schools?
  • Does a program like this create lifelong brand drivers?

“In my opinion . . .”

Standard driving schools do just one thing: teach you how to pass the DMV’s written exam and driving test. You are on your own from there on. On the other hand, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy is a high-touch marketing and branding exercise shaped as a goodwill gesture to the parents of young motorists. It will offer complimentary parent-teen workshops through select Mercedes-Benz dealerships and/or schools to do things such as heighten teen driver safety awareness (speeding, texting, seat belts, overconfidence, etc.), educate parents and teens on motoring laws and DMV requirements, and tips on how to choose the best driving school to meet these goals.

No doubt there will be an on-road, behind-the-wheel component for driver training, safety and defensive driving demonstration, using, I would assume—”drum roll please”—a Mercedes-Benz. The driving demonstration is probably a euphemism for “test drive,” and did someone say “please give us your contact information”—I mean, nothing comes free in this world.

Don’t get me wrong: ANY program that gives a young driver more confidence and situational awareness is very welcome. What this program will likely not do though — and in my opinion is sorely lacking today—is provide education for teens (and many parents) on how to properly maintain their used car and how to keep from taking it to the dealer/repair shop for every little thing, e.g., how to change windshield wipers, burned out headlight and brake light bulbs, rotate tires and check air pressures, when to change fluids, etc. Of course, the parents don’t need to bother with any of that if they buy a new/certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz, now would they? (Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.)

A program like this, if targeted to the general public—and not only affluent zip codes where a the latest Mercedes-Benz is more of a fashion accessory—will create a first time experience in a Mercedes-Benz dealership or vehicle. Given the program’s heavy emphasis on safety, it should be a positive brand experience for all families involved. However, as for this being a “cradle-to-grave” branding and marketing exercise, well, in today’s world there are so many good automotive choices out there, the life-long brand devotee is becoming rarer and rarer. All it takes are a few too many unsavory Mercedes-Benz dealership experiences and/or a car that has more problems than it should, and what was once loyalty becomes a bad in the mouth.

The takeaway here is:

  • About the declining relevance of brand loyalists—not many people are exclusive to one brand or are unwilling to be persuaded by another brand, especially not high-end consumers who have garages of all types of cars.
  • About Mercedes’ ability to “net” a lot of contact information and quick connections with consumers, especially considering its a free program.
  • It is very good to see brands take on some social responsibilities—this includes other marques such as Audi with all its educational programs.

 Image credit: UT San Diego


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