Two men in the fast lane. Philipp Schiemer and Jochen Hermann are part of the new Mercedes-AMG management team. We met up with them in Affalterbach for a chat.
Affalterbach, September 2020: They have both known each other and valued each other for twelve years, and upon first meeting them, they instantly come off as two people who are completely at ease with each other – and who also have many plans together, which they can certainly achieve: Philipp Schiemer, 56, chairman of the board (CEO) of Mercedes-AMG since 1 August 2020 and Jochen Hermann, 52, chief technical officer (CTO). Both are now leading Mercedes-AMG’s management into the future. Schiemer and Hermann have worked for Daimler AG for decades. Philipp Schiemer is the sales expert of the two; Jochen Hermann, the passionate technician. They are both athletes, but more importantly, they are both team players: Schiemer was a football captain and playmaker for a long time; Hermann still plays regularly in attack, scoring goals with both boot and head on the football pitch. Schiemer, 1.84 metres tall, wears a white polo shirt and black sneakers. Hermann, 1.87 metres tall, wears a black polo shirt and white sneakers.
Congratulations on your new positions at the helm of Mercedes-AMG. How long would you say you have had an interest in sports cars?
Philipp Schiemer (PS): Thank you very much. Basically, I’ve been interested in sports and racing cars probably for as long as I can remember. Even back when I was a small ten- or twelve-year-old boy, I avidly pored over and collected car magazines. And I was also pretty good at playing the card game “Autoquartett”: cubic capacity, cylinders, power, length, weight, nought to 100 in … I still remember that there was a Mercedes-Benz C 111 in a car quartets game. This card was almost unbeatable at the time.
Jochen Hermann (JH): Yeah, car quartets! I remember I loved playing that as well. I was also into sports cars from an early age, especially the supercars. I probably read more car magazines back when I was 15 than I
read today. HP and top speed, aerodynamics and, of course, the design – everything about it fascinated
me. Driving dynamics became just my thing, my huge passion. The only real reason I studied aerospace engineering at the University of Stuttgart was really, of course, if you study that, you get to build cars. And that was my goal in life.
Did you have any idols?
PS: I had read loads of books and biographies about all the racing legends as a teenager. The Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio, who was a ¬ve-time world champion in the early years of Formula 1, ended up being my absolute favourite. Later on I actually got to meet him in Argentina. That was a memorable, lasting and amazing experience for me. Fangio was a very approachable, likeable guy.
JH: The many different parallels between my life and his are really quite interesting. I also grew up
with Formula 1 in my youth – because my father would always watch the races with me on Sundays.
I also had a Formula 1 driver as my role model: Niki Lauda. I came across him time and time again
during the course of my career. The thing I really liked most about him? He listened intently and was always extremely eager to learn. I have met very few people in my life as technologically-minded as him.
What was it like when you found out that you were going to be CEO and CTO of the world-famous driving performance brand?
JH: I remember it quite well: it was a Saturday. We were having a party at home, a full house, when my
phone rang. I was asked if I could see myself becoming part of a new management team at Mercedes-AMG.
Could I ever! After that phone call, I took my wife to one side and I told her I’d just had a call. No, she shouldn’t worry, it was nothing bad. But I needed to process this for myself now, and I wasn’t going to be reachable for a few hours. I left the party and went mountain biking. Only afterwards did I tell my wife that I’d just been offered my dream job at AMG.
PS: Sport has given me a deep passion for winning. I can lose too, but my ambition and self-image drive me to be a winner. To be at the top. I’d already been working for Mercedes-Benz in Brazil since 2013 and was responsible for the whole Latin American business. That had already been a high-point for me, an absolute top job. I thought it doesn’t get better than this. But then when I received a phone call in São Paulo asking if I’d like to become CEO of AMG, I thought: wow, great, it can get better! I had hardly dared to dream about this.
I’m a team player, team captain as well as a motivator. I am very impatient and creative. I don’t do well at a standstill. I always want to improve everything - Philipp Schiemer, CEO of Mercedes-AMG.
Leading Mercedes-AMG into the future is certainly one of the most amazing jobs in the entire automotive industry – but also one of the most challenging ones. What’s your attitude when approaching this task?
JH: Well, speaking as a technician, I would also have to say this: it’s my ultimate dream job to be allowed to help shape a brand as self-assured and as strong as this one.
PS: For me, holding this position is an absolute honour. Having the responsibility to develop Mercedes-AMG even further, to drive it forward with great dedication and at full throttle is incredible. While I have tremendous respect for the challenge ahead, I also have the con¬dence to say: we can do it. No question about it, we can!
How do you intend to further build on the AMG brand’s strengths and, above all, its global appeal?
PS: The task at hand now, of course, is to bring AMG into the electric age. We want to position ourselves as the performance brand when it comes to electricvehicles too. One of our priorities will certainly be to offer even more top-of-the-range models for collectors and enthusiasts in the high-end segment. The demand is there. We can currently see this in the AMG GT Black Series which we recently launched. There is even one sitting outside the door right now. In my mind, that is the perfect supercar.
JH: Bringing performance and sustainability together is our priority. I’m also convinced that we will always be a performance brand. Going electric is not a threat, but a real opportunity.
Are there any differences in the thoughts you two have on how to further develop Mercedes-AMG in the various markets?
PS: It is important that the brand be positioned the same worldwide, as a pure sports car brand, but product preferences may well differ from one region to another. The emerging market we see in China is without doubt a particular challenge and also an opportunity, because there is simply not yet a long-established track record there as you will find in Europe or the USA, for example. Getting Mercedes-AMG established in China just as successfully as it already is in the other world markets is certainly one of the bigger challenges that we are facing.
Don’t you also reach new target groups, buyers and fans more through lifestyle than performance?
PS: Mercedes-AMG has a long-established outstanding position in the global racer community with its models and motorsport DNA. This is ripe for expansion. We do also see potential both in the lifestyle segment and in the female target group. There are signi¬cant opportunities here and we already have some product ideas that play on the combination of performance with everyday usability.
How will you manage to make the iconic Mercedes-AMG luxury even more appealing for customers?
JH: We have the technical expertise, do not compromise and we make the impossible possible.
PS: What’s more: we are a younger company than our competitors, so we are also that much more capable of development – and always good for pleasant surprises.
I see myself as a troublemaker, full of energy. I always want to get on to the next problem and get it solved as quickly as possible. I don’t know how to do nothing. Not even on holiday - Jochen Hermann, CTO of Mercedes-AMG.
Will people still be talking about horsepower and acceleration stats in five years’ time? Or what makes a luxurious sports car with racing genes so appealing?
PS: People, especially those in the fast-growing sports segment, will certainly still want to have their fun, their thrills – and outstanding performance – five or ten years from now. What drives it still remains to be seen. We’re working on that.
JH: Driving performance is itself already a luxury commodity, and I am fully convinced that it will continue to be relevant.
What business trip are you particularly looking forward to?
PS: China. We’ve opened the world’s first AMG Experience Centre just a two hours’ drive from Shanghai. It’s on 1,300 square metres and has an interactive experience zone, racing simulators as well as twelve exhibition areas. And it’s next door to the Zhejiang International Circuit.
JH: I’m looking forward to a few vehicle presentations such as the AMG models of the new S-Class. And to the unique Project ONE.
You met the legendary founders of AMG, Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher. What did this meeting mean to you?
PS: So much! If both of them were to tell us in three years’ time that we’d done a good job up to that point, that would be the greatest accolade for me personally.
JH: Yeah, that would be like getting a knighthood!
This interview was conducted in September 2020 in compliance with all Corona safety measures.
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