In any industry, it’s hard for a company to rise to the top, but even harder to stay on top. In the automobile industry, Mercedes-Benz has achieved the near-impossible by remaining the standard bearer since time immemorial. But this premier position is not taken for granted by the people who work for this automotive giant.
“We at Mercedes-Benz cannot rest on our laurels. Trust is a bank which we need to keep paying into with exciting new products, value added solutions, outstanding customer service and the professional management of our relationship with the customer,” says Kai Schlickum, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Mercedes-Benz Malaysia Sdn Bhd.
This 37-year-old Aussie, who (like the company he works for) is originally from Germany, went on to add: “As the inventor of the automobile, nobody has more knowledge and experience in building cars than Mercedes-Benz. I believe the allure for the brand comes about because the people and dealers that work for it are just as convinced of the value as the customers. This drives everybody in our organization to top performance and to provide our customers with the best.”
Much like the company he works for, Kai exudes confidence, drive, sophistication, and a passionate pride in his role. Through his professional dedication, he has risen up through the ranks at Mercedes-Benz, and in his current role oversees numerous aspects of the company’s business in Malaysia including sales, product management, marketing, and vehicle preparation. A big job, no doubt, but Kai is up to the challenge.
A LIFELONG LOVE AFFAIR WITH CARS
Kai’s career trajectory can be traced back to his early youth in Australia when this self-professed car buff – “my heart beats for cars,” he smiles – began playing incessantly with all sorts of toy cars, even crafting his own vehicles out of leftover boxes that his father brought home.
Kai seemed destined to make his mark in the automotive industry – and he has, by seizing the opportunities that have been given to him throughout his career and devoting himself to the pursuit of professional success.
After finishing his studies in Australia at the age of 22, he moved to Germany where he did a sales traineeship in passenger cars at Mercedes-Benz Aachen. More than 16 years later, Kai is still working for Mercedes-Benz, having held an impressive and diverse array of positions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and, finally, Asia.
He beams with pride when talking about the privilege and prestige of working for such an illustrious company: “Who can get up every morning and say that their job is their hobby? Cars have been my life ever since I was born. For me there was no alternative than to work in the car industry, and to work for the company that invented the car is a blessing.”
Kai was based in Stuttgart, Germany in early 2011 when the call came offering him a chance to relocate to Malaysia and assume the role of Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Having always wanted to live in Asia, he jumped at the opportunity and jumped on a plane to Kuala Lumpur in April 2011.
In sunny Malaysia, Kai has blossomed – both professionally and personally. He openly praises his predecessors at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia, as well as his current team, which under his management has continued to fortify the brand’s position here as market leader in the luxury car segment.
“My professional highlight was achieving the results which we were able to achieve in 2011,” explains Kai, “It is recognition that everything we do every day is done right. We enjoy an exceptional reputation in Malaysia thanks in no small part to our very professional dealer network.”
The evidence is plain to see on the roads throughout Malaysia: Mercedes-Benz is by and large the luxury car of choice in the local market.
Besides his professional achievements during his time on Malaysian shores, Kai has taken time to explore, develop and indulge his personal passion for cooking and gourmet cuisine, as well as immersing himself in local history and culture by collecting antiques and artefacts on his frequent visits to Penang and Melaka.
For a man often to be found in the driving seat, he finds Malaysia has a plentitude of opportunities to rest and relax. From deep sea fishing expeditions to homely dinner parties with newfound friends and his fiancé, Kai does not see Malaysia just as a career posting. Rather it is now a place he fondly calls home.
It is apparent that, whatever Kai does – personally and professionally – he does with passion.
Inspired by “the heritage of the Mercedes-Benz brand and its reputation for quality, safety and value”, Kai – along with his team at Mercedes-Benz – is driven to be the best.
This article was written by William Citrin for The Expat magazine and has been edited for Expat Go.
Source: The Expat February 2012
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This article has been edited for ExpatGomalaysia.com