The star that outshines them allBy Tessa R. Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The only unbreakable world record is the one that has been the first to be invented, or discovered. In the automobile industry, the distinction of being the inventor of the modern automobile is never disputed, nor surpassed. This sole distinction is a natural attractant to history’s leaders and trailblazers, who look up to the brand as enhancing their own status in society, validating their own notable accomplishments.
That is why you will see Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the parking lot of the most powerful and influential individuals in the world—be they presidents, kings, sheiks, magnates, tycoons, taipans; be they notorious, beloved, or despised or adored. Point in any direction, and the three-pointed star points back at you. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, the Mercedes Benz emblem rivals even that of the Christian cross in public recognition.
It’s interesting to note that the iconic Mercedes-Benz is actually a product of two landmark inventions colliding, then collaborating. In “Enduring Passion” by brand expert Leslie Butterfield, it was depicted that rival marques Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented their own versions of the internal-combustion vehicle in the same year—1886, and the two went their own separate ways for 40 years before merging in 1926, since then becoming such a dominant force in luxury vehicles possessing, as what auto journalist Tony Lewin said, the clearest brand image.
In much the same way Mercedes-Benz has outlasted any other car brand, a Mercedes-Benz car is expected to outlive even its owner.
The enduring mystique of the three-pointed star is probably the reason so many well-known personalities grace any important historical event that involves Mercedes-Benz. One prime example has been the 20th anniversary celebration of luxury vehicle importer CATS Motors Inc.’s partnership with Mercedes-Benz last July 12. It was, literally, a bedazzling occasion: The combination of about 500 members of the who’s who of the political and entertainment scenes in attendance and the glittery silver lights in the new Mercedes-Benz flagship showroom at the CATS Complex in Greenhills, EdSA, made this star-struck writer want to do a Corey Hart and “wear sunglasses at night” (if only she brought a pair).
This supernova of a gathering actually celebrated two occasions—the erstwhile mentioned 20th year celebration, and the formal introduction of Mercedes-Benz’s latest masterpiece, the SL500 Edition 1, which was so majestically displayed before guests and hosts alike, and which made even the most regal VIPs become like Bieber groupies. The adulation was justified, for every part of the car showed that it would be worth the P11.9-million take-home price.
There were plenty enough human-interest distractions, however. Former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada shook hands with one-time best buddy former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson. The former, incidentally, owns a black 1998 Mercedes-Benz S600 (bullet-proof), and a purple-gray 2001 Mercedes-Benz S500.
Representative JV Ejercito, who owns a 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 black series, told Inquirer Motoring that the S600 had an unbreakable emotional bond with his father, as the vehicle was used as the Presidential car.
Ronald Singson, who accompanied his father Chavit when the latter shook hands with Erap, owns a midnight-blue, 2-door SL500 2008 model, from the same lineage as that of the SL500 Edition 1 displayed that night. Like the latest version, Ronald’s SL500 is also a convertible. Ronald also owns a four-door S550.
San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez sat on the passenger side of the SL500 Edition 1, and—guess who sat beside her, behind the wheel—no less than old flame Erap. That scene prompted the remark from some amused bystanders: “The first couple of San Juan.”
Philippine Stock Exchange board chairman Jose Pardo was also seen that night. Other industry bigwigs were Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Lisa Gokongwei Cheng, Ambassador Toshinao Urabe of Japan, Peter Wallace, Ambassador Knut Solem of Norway, Napoleon Nazareno (PLDT President and CEO), lawyer Frank Chavez, Wolfgang Huppenbauer (President and CEO of Daimler South East Asia), John Tan (son of Lucio Tan), Ernest Cu of Globe and Tessa Prieto-Valdes (who owns a Mercedes-Benz C350 AMG Sport).
Legal eagles who figured prominently in the recently concluded impeachment trial of the Chief Justice also dropped by. They included House prosecutor Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, who was seen engaged in conversation with Alliance of Vehicle Importers and Distributors president Fe Perez Agudo and automotive tycoon Richard Lee. Also spotted was defense panel lawyer Jose Roy III.
Sophisticated humans and cars seemingly mingled in the event. At the main entrance, like happy hosts welcoming their guests, were a 1954 300SL Gullwing owned by Danding Cojuangco, a 1969 280SL, a 1989 560 SL, a 1997 SL 500, a 2004 SL 500, a 2010 SL 65 AMG Black Series, a 2010 SLS AMG, and a 2012 G55 AMG. According to Andros Villaraza, brand manager of Mercedes-Benz marketing communication, most of the cars were provided by Rene Nunez, president of the Mercedes-Benz Club of the Philippines.
The Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, in particular, stood out. This new-generation SL takes the meaning of the famous letters SL, or super light, quite literally. The new SL has been produced for the first time entirely from aluminum, and weighs up to 140 kg less than its predecessor.
According to the engineers, consistent weight reduction is one of the most outstanding design characteristics in the new SL—as was the case of its namesake, the original SL of 1952 with its lightweight tubular frame. For the first time, Mercedes-Benz has implemented an all-aluminum bodyshell in a series production model. Only very few components consist of other materials. The designers use the even lighter magnesium for the cover behind the tank. High-strength steel tubing is integrated in the A-pillars for safety reasons.
Started from a workshop
Felix Ang, CATS Motors president and founder, began his business as a car accessories shop in the late 1980s. The shop evolved into a workshop-cum-showroom for Mercedes-Benz vehicles in 1992. CATS Motors became an official Mercedes-Benz dealership two years after that.
After over a thousand units sold in the period 1995 to 1997, and after building the first ever Mercedes-Benz Autohaus showroom in South East Asia in 2003, to becoming what CATS calls “the undisputed leader for the C-Class, E-Class, S-Class and even sports coupe and roadster segments in the Philippines today, CATS Motors has established one expansive milestone to the next.”
“In 1992, I clearly remember the first time I met Mr. Felix Ang—we had the first blueprint of the first showroom. From those small, humble beginnings, CATS Motors has worked hard to grow the brand in this market, and the opening of this new showroom is a clear statement,” said Wolfgang Huppenbauer, president and CEO of Daimler South East Asia.
CATS Motors Inc.’s new showroom is equipped with the latest equipment, furniture and fixtures based on the Global Mercedes-Benz Presentation System.
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