Thursday, March 24, 2011
Driver's Ed, Courtesy of Mercedes German automaker announces teen-driving school
Marketing 101 (along with actual demographic research) teaches that brand loyalty tends to be established at a young age—the painfully image-conscious adolescent years, especially. This is why a number of nervier adult brands have rolled out youth extensions: Pink by Victoria’s Secret, for instance, or Teen Vogue, or U.K. brand King of Shaves’ recently introduced Kings 1965, a line of shaving products targeted at teen boys hard at work on their first whiskers. Well, get ready youth of America: Mercedes-Benz is the latest grown-up brand to want you.
No, the iconic German automaker isn’t cranking out a new line of skateboards. Rather, Mercedes-Benz USA just announced the creation of a teen-driving school that will open later this year (cost and location undisclosed). The project is a pond jump from the U.K.-based Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy—also aimed at youth—that opened in 2009. Some 4,500 peach-faced motorists have taken that course, which surely beats the sleep-inducing 30-hour class we all endured during high school. Seventy-nine percent of the U.K. school grads passed their road test on the first try, which is nearly double the U.K. average of 43 percent.
Of course, Mercedes’ stated aim for the U.S. teen-driving school is to turn out safe drivers, not the next Dale Earnhardt. “The skills required to simply get a license do not fully prepare young drivers to meet the demands of the road,” according to Daimler AG’s senior manager Alexander Hobbach—and who are we to doubt the man?
But let’s separate out the parts here. Most teen boys in America are as likely to get a chance to test the 4.3-second, 0-to-60 acceleration of a Mercedes coupe as they are to get a date with one of the Kardashians. So once you give Junior a spin around the track with 451 horses under the hood and his hands on that leather Alcantara-grip steering wheel, tell us: When he grows up, what brand of car do you think he’ll want to buy?
Hence, this looks like a smart move for Mercedes, which, by the way, already offers a roving driver’s class for adults called the Mercedes AMG Driving Academy at various racetracks around the country. The basic course starts at around $1,800—an amount that, last we checked, was considerably cheaper than an SLS convertible.