October 19, 2011
German automaker Mercedes-Benz is opening its second driving academy to educate and train teenagers in Los Angeles in a move that may increase its reputation as a family-oriented brand.
The Los Angeles academy is Mercedes’ first branded driving education program in the United States. The driving school will take its teaching method from the already-established Mercedes driving school in Britain and includes online teaching, in-class dilemma games, eyewitness accounts, case studies and on-the-road teaching.
“This is a feel-good promotion designed to make the brand appear more socially-responsible,” said Rob Frankel, branding expert at marketing consultancy Frankel and Anderson, Los Angeles.
“Usually, this stuff is a hedge against liabilities and complaints lodged by ambulance-chasing lawyers, claiming the brand encourages its vehicles to be raced and torqued the way they're depicted in their TV commercials,” he said.
Mr. Frankel is not affiliated with Mercedes, but agreed to comment as a third-party expert.
Mercedes was not able to comment by press deadline.
Under the hood
The Mercedes driving academy is currently finalizing the design of the facility and the curriculum.
The school is aimed at helping students develop maneuverability and decision-making processes for the road.
Through a variety of Web and classroom experiences, instructors will lead students through role-playing, case studies, dilemma games, witness accounts and brainstorming related to obstacles drivers face on the road.
For those students old enough to receive a California Learner’s Permit, the Mercedes driving academy will also provide driving lessons.
Using a coaching-oriented education style, students will actively develop safe driving results by making better decisions on the road, it is claimed.
The curriculum will exceed California Department of Motor Vehicles requirements, per the brand.
The teaching methods were founded based on studies performed by the Hermes Research Group, which designed the coaching technique for driving education in Europe.
The Mercedes’ Los Angeles driving academy program will cost $1,390 per driver.
Mercedes chose Los Angeles as the site of its first U.S. driving school due to the increasingly large crash number of accidents among teens in the area, according the brand.
Indeed, the No. 1 cause of death among adolescents between ages 15-20 is car crashes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, teens are most likely to have a significant crash within their first year of driving, according to Mercedes.
The driving academy, located at 8231 West Third Street in Los Angeles, was strategically placed adjacent to many family neighborhoods, several highways and shopping destinations to entertain parents while they wait.
The location comes as no surprise since Mercedes has been involved with other driving education programs in Southern California in the past.
For example, the brand has partnered with the California State Parent Teacher Association and with IMPACT Teen Drivers to provide safety workshops at more than 20 Los Angeles schools in the last year.
Mercedes appears to be trying to increase the brand’s reputation among parents, particularly those of teenagers who will soon be driving and therefore need an additional car.
Indeed, consumers in Los Angeles, a city known for its flashy lifestyle, auto culture and wealthy residents, are likely a prime market for Mercedes.
“This is mainly designed for everyone other than males 24 and up, who are already predisposed to the Mercedes message,” Mr. Frankel said.
“Generally, anything having to do with safety and training focuses on youth and mothers,” he said. “Thus, the aim might be to get mothers to accept a Mercedes as a family car rather than a Volvo.”
Kayla Hutzler, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York