In recent years, the automotive industry in Iraq has witnessed momentous growth, and the country is set to witness a strong surge in sales by 2030. While there are various automotive leaders poised in the industry, one that marks its staunch legacy is 130 years old Mercedes-Benz. Bright Castle Motors (BCM) Mercedes-Benz Iraq has been in the limelight today converging innovation into luxury and performance like never before. Bernhard Dolinek, CEO of Bright Castle Motors (BCM), the exclusive importer of Mercedes-Benz cars in Iraq, is one exceptional doyen who is consistently leading the charge for the success of this automobile leader in the industry.
Let’s get to know Bernhard Dolinek and BCM Mercedes-Benz Iraq vastly through an exclusive interview conducted by the CEO Insights Asia.
Give a brief account of your professional background and experiences. What is the motivation that fuels your daily routines?
With nearly three decades in the automotive sector, primarily with Mercedes-Benz, I've held various roles across Germany, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the UK. My journey began in Mercedes-Benz Munich's sales department, where I subsequently took on diverse functional responsibilities. This path led me to the manufacturer's headquarters and the retail side, spanning Passenger Cars and the Truck industry. In 2007, I ventured into Iraq as Country Director for Daimler AG, shaping the country's automotive strategy. After a global journey with different brands, I returned in 2019 as the CEO of Bright Castle Motors, Mercedes-Benz Iraq.
Bright Castle Motors has thrived in the rapidly growing Iraqi car market. In both FY 2022 and Q1 2023, we proudly secured Mercedes-Benz's position as the most popular premium brand in Iraq. At Bright Castle Motors, we've diligently cultivated a customer-centric environment, building trust, an uncommon concept in the Iraqi car consumer landscape.
Our customer-centric vision is communicated consistently, fostering team engagement. We ensure daily follow-ups on all aspects of the business, giving each team member the necessary focus. Mentorship and encouragement are vital aspects of my leadership approach. Additionally, I maintain personal customer contact, even with those who may have had less than satisfactory experiences. This engagement helps me gauge the company's performance, its perception, and its image in the market.
You possess over twenty-seven years of experience. How has your path to success been and what is your success mantra?
There is no magic formula that fits all, hence remain agile and flexible to find solutions for individual challenges, get a good team in place, and ensure good quality time for conversations. It was the attitude of wanting to achieve and relentless hard work focusing on results that led me to a solid career path. I started in Sales with Mercedes-Benz Munich, progressed to international roles, and later spearheaded market and regional responsibilities. The functions I covered allowed me to gain experience in service parts, marketing, commercial and network development. Following more strategic projects in the M&A area I then became the Managing director and CEO in various countries. Apart from Mercedes-Benz, I was also leading businesses with multi franchises.
How would you define Mercedes-Benz in Iraq as an organization and its current position in the market?
We lead in Iraq's automotive industry, prioritizing customer convenience with our core principles: Respect, Love, Ease, and Trust. Our facilities ensure a warm and professional welcome for every guest. As trusted partners, we assist consumers in choosing the right car and provide expert technical support through our highly trained and certified technicians. Continuous training, including language courses and soft skills, fosters customer trust, resulting in a consistently high customer satisfaction score of over 99 percent. Our service operations cover all of Iraq, offering regular visits to customers in any location. Additionally, with the launch of the new Maybach, we provide a 3-year service contract with transportation to and from workshops.
Give a gist about the factors you take into consideration while suggesting your offerings to the clients.
At Bright Castle Motors, we take pride in crafting custom car models for Iraq. As the exclusive authorized importer of Mercedes-Benz in Iraq, we've developed unique technical features for these cars, known as the 'Original' Mercedes-Benz for Iraq. These features include a Euro 4 engine tailored to local fuel requirements, enhanced engine cooling and air conditioning for Iraq's hot climate, an optional navigation system, and a remarkable lifetime free software upgrade for each car, an exclusive offer in Iraq.
It's crucial to note that only these 'original' imported cars come with a full warranty, while others have no warranty. Unfortunately, some consumers mistakenly believe in a global warranty, which isn't the case.
Our mission primarily focuses on educating customers about these distinctions and building trust in our brand. For example, cars designed for Europe may not perform optimally in Iraq due to differing emission standards. We recently encountered a customer who, unaware of these differences, purchased a car meant for another country and faced a $25,000 engine damage cost. To highlight these disparities, we now display the damaged engine in one of our Erbil showrooms, underscoring their tangible impact.
Be authentic & patient, keep learning & growing, holding a positive attitude
Be authentic & patient, keep learning & growing, holding a positive attitude
Tell us about your leadership approach. What are the guidelines or methodologies you follow to lead your team?
With nearly three decades in the industry, effective leadership has become a routine for me. In a dynamic environment like Iraq, clear communication of our vision and commercial goals is essential, requiring agility and transparency. This is not unique to Iraq; I've managed challenges globally, from Brexit in the UK to navigating economic downturns during a political siege in Qatar. These experiences have taught me to focus on what's controllable and drive solutions in response to evolving market trends and industry changes. Communication is paramount, and employees need a clear vision and operational plan to follow, often requiring task adjustments or department realignment for effective execution.
Our company also recognizes its broader societal responsibility, leading to various initiatives. We engage with the younger generation by sponsoring activities in local schools, universities, and even a refugee camp. For instance, we've organized business case presentations at local schools, offering work experience opportunities to winners. Our Trainee and Intern program provides real-life exposure to young talents, contributing to our future talent pool. Furthermore, we invest significantly in employee training and even fully sponsor several MBA programs.
Could you reflect on some of the toughest challenges you have encountered in your journey so far? How did you overcome them and what did you learn from them?
I approach situations by assessing what I can control, often leading to fact-based solutions. Over the years, I've learned to seek help, a skill I didn't excel at in my youth. Actively listening to various perspectives forms a complete picture of the best plan of action. Patience in preparation and a relentless focus on implementation trump elaborate PowerPoint plans. Maintaining a positive attitude, and being realistic, is crucial; there's always a solution.
Iraq faces political and economic challenges, but with the right team, solutions can be found. I've encountered unique challenges in various geographies, such as Brexit's impact on the UK's business model. Despite these hurdles, we've consistently emerged with the best possible solutions.
What is the future destination you are heading towards?
Mercedes-Benz's future vision focuses on greater electrification, a premium luxury segment, and digitalization. The latter, often overlooked, offers customers the flexibility to add digital features post-purchase, like AI applications on our MBOS platform, enhancing entertainment and information modules.
Locally, Mercedes-Benz in Iraq will expand its network to offer luxury cars across the country. Notably, Bright Castle Motors provides a unique service in Iraq – Flying Doctors available throughout the nation. This service diagnoses and serves vehicles at the customer's location. For instance, we recently assisted a friend in Baghdad with an engine malfunction; within 8 hours, we had the vehicle in the workshop, fixed it overnight, and transported it back to his home, all at no cost to the customer. This exemplifies our commitment to customer experience and building trust as Mercedes-Benz's reliable representative in Iraq.
What advice would you give to the upcoming industry leaders?
Do what you truly enjoy, be patient, and be prepared for pain, sweating, setbacks, and critique. If you’re not consistent and focused on your productive output, chances are that you will not grow in what you do. Companies need every team member to be motivated and drive positive initiatives. Those who can create solutions and ideas will grow. Analyzing a problem is not what this means but creative solutions, don’t be afraid to express your opinion, also; those who are able to express themselves in writing or orally are going to be heard and will stand better chances to be those leaders of tomorrow.
Bernhard Dolinek, CEO, Mercedes-Benz (Iraq)
He is a global professional leader with approximately 30 years of experience across the automotive industry working in leadership roles starting in germany, venturing out to roles in europe, the middle east, and south east asia, the uk, now in iraq.
•Hobbies: Gym, Nature, Learning
•Favorite Cuisine: Italian
•Favorite Book: Lessons From A Brain Surgent
•Favorite Travel Destination: Berlin