December 12th 2019
December 12th 2019
Over to you, Silver Arrows task force!
Blue decals to strengthen solidarity within the EU, neon-yellow contour markings for better visibility – plenty of thought went into the external colour scheme of the police cars. But why silver "down below"? A group-wide Daimler team has made these colour standard for the industry – thanks to a revolutionary leasing concept.
Leo Parzinger could hardly wait for the impending fleet changeover. "I like these cars, after all, they're Silver Arrows!" – this was the comment by the experienced car mechanic, who was in charge of the police vehicle fleet in Waiblingen, Baden-Württemberg at the time, that was quoted in the DaimlerChrysler employee newsletter of March 2001. A little later the first of the leased 3800 vehicles bearing the Mercedes star were in operation with the police.
DaimlerChrysler had pulled off a remarkable coup.
For almost 20 years the police have opted for the Stuttgart brand and leasing from Mercedes-Benz Bank for its fleet – not only in Baden-Württemberg, but all over Germany.
But how did this come about? Ulrich Kreim was involved when the first big deal was initiated in 2000. Today he works in Global Sales & Marketing at Daimler Mobility. At the time his business card read "Outlet manager debis Car Fleet Management" – following the merger between Daimler and Chrysler, like DaimlerChrysler Bank (later Mercedes-Benz Bank), the fleet sales organisation was part of DaimlerChrysler Services. "At the end of the nineties the police vehicle fleet urgently needed replacement. There was a Europe-wide tender, and we took part in it", Kreim says as he leafs through the employee newsletter. This also has a photo of the "Silver Arrows task force" in which Konrad Pfaff (special-purpose vehicle sales, DaimlerChrysler), Gerd Deißenriether (Stuttgart II police directorate), Michael Bantle (Ministry of the Interior) and he can be seen.
It was DaimlerChrysler that made the best offer, or more precisely the sales management in Stuttgart, and received an order for 3600 cars and 200 vans – at the time this represented more than half of all police vehicles in Baden-Württemberg. A Daimler team in Berlin had previously been tasked with preparing an offer. This included Konrad Pfaff from DaimlerChrysler Sales Germany (now Mercedes-Benz Germany) – which incidentally continues to have a department dedicated to official bodies and sales of special-purpose vehicles – including Ulrich Kreim.
This was an innovative concept, and was to set new standards.
The keyword was "reconversion". It was about the question how special-purpose vehicles can be converted back into regular production models with the least cost and effort. As a result the police had the benefit of favourable leasing rates, while Daimler was able to sell the cars at better prices after their return.
In detail this meant that the vehicle's basic colour was no longer white, as had been usual since 1975. "Daimler had the idea to give the new police cars a silver paint finish", Kreim says. Silver because after the end of a lease, the resale value of a silver-painted vehicle on the used car market is higher than that of a white car. "At that time there was no great demand for white cars, but metallic silver was the most popular Mercedes-Benz colour", Kreim says. The colour change saved Baden-Württemberg around 4500 German marks per vehicle – that is how much respraying a white police car would have cost after the end of the leasing period.
Furthermore: thanks to a special process for applying decals to the vehicles, the green later to be replaced by "European blue" could be removed without any repainting. The roof carrier with its police-specific equipment could also be removed with no great effort. In addition the vehicles came with a service contract, and the leasing periods were shorter. "This allowed the police to reduce their costs for longer periods of use and for their own workshops", Kreim explains. "At the same time this increased the so-called "turn rate", i.e. the replacement cycle, which gave a boost to our sales."
Word about this leasing concept soon did the rounds in police circles, and it became the standard for tendering authorities and for other vehicle manufacturers, who later adopted the concept. According to Michael Bantle at the Ministry of the Interior, eight other federal states requested the tender documentation. "It was previously unimaginable: in the first year alone we received 2400 new vehicles, all of them regular production models, where the radio equipment, blue beacon and decals could be removed without visible traces", he reported enthusiastically in the employee newsletter.
Looking back, Ulrich Kreim praises the good cooperation within Daimler. "Our colleagues in Sales had developed a superb concept, and they integrated us perfectly as the bank." At the time, fleets of this size were an absolute exception. "It was something special to get an order of this size over the line, but maintaining the business relationship for so many years is an even greater achievement", Kreim says, who left the fleet business in 2003. Today his position is held by Christian Bohnenberger, who is responsible for business with official bodies at Mercedes-Benz Bank: "We are very proud of the good cooperation and our success in equipping the police with our vehicles."
The police were delighted with their procurement of the "Silver Arrows" just under 20 years ago, as comments in the 2001 employee newsletter testify. The former state police commissioner Erwin Hetger is quoted as saying: "This car enjoys enormous renown!" And car mechanic Leo Parzinger was tempted into a subtle declaration of love that no doubt remains valid today: "Our police colleagues are now on the roads for much longer!"