Mercedes-Benz has become quite canny. Since 2006, when it opened its flagship brand centre, Mercedes-Benz World in Brooklands, Surrey, 3.6 million people have visited, with many booking one of the driving activities on its 1.5-mile handling circuit and 10-acre off-road course.
It is one of many developments which Mercedes has used to overcome its once rather elitist brand image while maintaining a premium experience. People can immerse themselves for free in the brand and its history in a fun, zero-pressure environment. It’s like popping into a museum and coffee bar with cars.
Which was why, when my teenage stepson asked for an under-17s driving experience for his birthday, we felt it was time to load up our long-term test C-Class and head for Brooklands.
Nervous middle-class parents were clearly reassured by the expert drivers who they have paid to instruct their offspring for an hour. Also clear was the youngsters’ excitement – few will forget the first car they drove was a Mercedes-Benz. As they are scored in various driving skills, many will want to return to record an improvement.
Naturally, the cost of creating and operating Mercedes-Benz World has probably added a few pounds to the price of every Mercedes sold in the UK. But that investment in early brand attachment is canny indeed – my boy now has an unrealistic expectation that his first car could be an A-Class.