SAN FRANCISCO – When selling a Mercedes-Benz, it helps emotionally to keep the customer close to the luxury car itself at the dealership.

So says Mercedes-Benz Financial’s Andreas Hinrichs, extolling the virtues of mobile devices, such as iPad tablets, that give dealership staffers more freedom of movement.

“If you are standing next to a Mercedes-Benz, it has a lot of emotion to it, so why not take advantage of that?” he says.

Using an iPad allows a dealership salesperson to keep customers alongside the car they are considering, rather than taking them elsewhere to get online product, pricing and financing information. “This is about dealer mobility instead of a deskbound system,” Hinrichs says. “When Apple introduced the iPad, we thought we had to do something with it as a business tool.”

That’s why his firm provided iPads to 40 dealerships on a test basis last year. Mercedes-Financial since has given the devices to all 350 Mercedes dealers in the U.S.

One of the first to get an iPad is Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco. It uses the device in a variety of ways, says Ash Zaki, chief operating officer.

“We can show financing scenarios right here on the sales floor,” he says, standing next to an E-Class sedan. “About 60% of our customers lease cars, and we are able to quickly show them leasing programs on the iPad screen.”

Sebastian Jaczewski, the store’s pre-owned vehicle manager, uses an iPad when conducting wear-and-tear inspections on vehicles during the lease turn-in process.

“It’s a great tool,” he says. “Before, I filled out a 5-page paper form. Now, I mark off icons. The client typically wants to be with you during the inspection, and everyone is in a hurry. This speeds things up.”

Mercedes-Benz Financial will expand its iPad applications to feature finance and insurance programs, such as auto insurance and wheel and tire protection.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com