Mercedes-Benz Korea CEO Dmitri Psillakis/Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Korea

“Growth accelerator in Korean automotive market”

This is the first of a series highlighting best-performing chief executives in Korea. _ ED.

The automobile industry is known for its deep-rooted rivalry between two German giants of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The two have embraced very competitive dynamic over the past century.

In some markets, Mercedes-Benz stands out, and in other places, BMW dominates. And when it comes to Korea, the latter had ruled for a long time thanks to its charismatic leader Kim Hyo-joon.

Kim had led BMW Korea since 2000, catapulting it to become the best imported car brand here.

While Kim achieved stellar performances with BMW, its nemesis Mercedes-Benz had been a perennial runner-up since it launched Korean operation in 2003. On a more negative note, its chief here committed suicide in 2012 for some reason.

All of a sudden, however, a young and ambitious businessman changed the scene after he took charge of Mercedes-Benz in 2015.

His name is Dmitri Psillakis, who was born in Greece and started his career at Mercedes-Benz in 1992.

While leading Mercedes-Benz’s Brazil operation, he already established a reputation for his growth-oriented strategy.

He doubled sales of Benz cars in Brazil while he served as the head of the passenger car business from 2014. In addition, he set up a goal of boosting car sales four times there in just five years.

When Psillakis vowed to defeat BMW in Korea, few believed it. But he silenced critics once and for all as Mercedes-Benz Korea topped the podium in 2016 by selling 56,343 cars.

That means that Mercedes-Benz became the first imported brand to reach 50,000 in annual sales, the exploit even BMW had never achieved.

Thereafter, Mercedes-Benz renewed records every year. The automaker’s yearly sales surpassed 60,000 and 70,000 in the following two years, respectively.

In 2018, Mercedes Benz’s sales amounted to 70,798 compared to 50,524 of BMW, which struggled to find its feet due to a series of engine fires of its vehicles.

It remains to be seen how Mercedes Benz would do this year under the stewardship of the active leader. As it plans to come up with 13 new models in 2019, the automaker is highly likely to cruise well.

Over the past four years, Psillakis has boosted Mercedes-Benz to assume the highest position in the competitive Korean market by dethroning long-time champion BMW.

Without his leadership, it would be difficult to explain the unexpected success of Mercedes-Benz.

That’s why he is leading the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea and why The Korea News Plus picks him as the first case of best CEOs in Korea.

The 53-year-old also headed various social corporate responsibility programs of Mercedes-Benz Korea. That’s why Seoul recognized him as an honorary citizen late last year.

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.