PEOPLE: PLAYER PROFILE: EBERHARDT LOOKS BEYOND ADS IN TOUTING MERCEDES: VP-MARKETING FOR N. AMERICA EYES OTHER TOOLS, TOO, IN LATEST ROLE AT AUTOMAKER

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Joe eberhardt sees himself as a team player at Mercedes-Benz of North America.

"We're trying to really develop the company as a team," said Mr. Eberhardt, Mercedes' VP-marketing since early April. "It's good we all have similar ideas and vision."

Mr. Eberhardt stepped into a team structure formed about three years ago. His new job is "much broader in scope than advertising," he explained.

The top marketing post, previously more ad-focused, now encompasses product positioning, vehicle content, pricing, retail strategy and marketing communications, including trade shows. He's overseeing all vehicle, service and customer-care marketing, plus retail development and engineering services in the U.S.

PREVIOUSLY AT PARENT CO.

Mr. Eberhardt's new job taps into his previous position at Mercedes' German parent, Daimler-Benz, where he had overseen worldwide product marketing and management at world headquarters in Stuttgart since 1996.

Mr. Eberhardt reports to Mike Jackson, who directed advertising as exec VP-marketing, sales and service even after his promotion a year ago to president of Mercedes.

The next round of Mercedes' advertising is already in the works at Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, so Mr. Eberhardt's input won't be seen until the campaign after that. "It's not going to be Joe Eberhardt deciding on advertising" however, he said.

Decisions "will be made by the marketing communications team and Mike Jackson," Mr. Eberhardt said.

The executive did predict that Mercedes will become more targeted, and may use a different mix of media. Relationship marketing is a key focus in Mercedes' overall approach to customers, he added.

Mercedes just reported an all-time monthly sales record in March, of 16,303 vehicles -- up 69% from March 1997. First-quarter sales also reached a record -- 40,365, a 65% increase vs. a year ago.

"At a time when we are experiencing the strongest growth in our history, integration within our most strategic areas is critical," said Mr. Jackson. "Joe brings to his new position a combination of retail, marketing and international expertise that will greatly enhance our efforts as we go forward with our sales and marketing offensive."

13 YEARS AT CARMAKER

Mr. Eberhardt started his career with Daimler-Benz in 1985 as a business analyst. In 1989, he moved to Mercedes' North American headquarters in Montvale, N.J., as group manager, directing all corporate strategic projects.

From 1993 to 1994, he was general manager of Mercedes-Benz Manhattan, the company-owned dealership in New York City. In 1995, he returned to Montvale as general manager-marketing/product management, passenger cars and light trucks.

A graduate of the program at the Academy for Administration & Economics of Stuttgart, Mr. Eberhardt earned his MBA at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business in New York in 1993.

Mr. Eberhardt predicted his biggest challenge will be "to maintain the momentum built in over the past years and to solidify that positioning."

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