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Benz counts Hyundai, Mazda as rivals

A game: The Mercedes-Benz A-Class starts at $35,900, plus on-roads, about $300 cheaper than the Mazda3 SP25 Astina.

Positioning and pricing means low-end Mercedes' pitched against high-end Mazdas

Mercedes-Benz logo9 Feb 2015

By NEIL DOWLING

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific (MBAP) says that premium European brands are no longer its only rivals, with some Japanese car-makers sneaking into the lower end of the luxury segment.

With Benz now offering entry models such as the A-Class hatch that starts in the mid-$30,000, higher-spec versions of mainstream brands' biggest sellers are now being shopped against the Euros.

MBAP senior manager public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy highlighted two Asian car-makers that have become its new rivals.

“Success in the lower-end prestige segment is all about having the right product,’’ he said.

“Hyundai and Mazda are in our class. They have the right product at the right price and are serious competitors to us in that part of the segment.’’Mr McCarthy said the Japanese and South Korean car-makers are experiencing the same effect of the market – “incredible demand’’.

“Transaction prices have never been keener. Buyers are very aware of pricing and specifications and the competitors in the segment and in their budget.’’The rivalry now between Asian car-makers and Mercedes-Benz, however, is more about the former moving up the price and features ladder, while Mercedes has moved into the lower-priced bracket.

The C-Class pricing starts at $60,900, plus on-road costs, only $900 more expensive than the Hyundai Genesis. The smaller CLA sedan starts at $50,900, $1280 more than the top-line Mazda6 Atenza diesel.

Mr McCarthy said the market segment occupied by Hyundai, Mazda and Mercedes-Benz was also about quality. But having these two as rivals has not hurt Mercedes.

“We’re building to see sales of C-Class hit 1000 a month,’’ Mr McCarthy said.

“We’ve had our best January ever and we missed out – by one – in getting in the top 10 best-sellers last year.

“Sales one year ago in C-Class were one half of the current volume. We don’t have supply problems and so we could start to see even bigger sales numbers through this year.’’The same optimism has infused into the AMG performance sub-brand.

“AMG is expecting 3000 sales this year. In January we had 250 sales of AMG product and by reference, 860 of C-Class,” he said.

“Australia is AMG’s biggest market on a per capita basis. We can’t see that changing anytime soon.’’Mercedes-Benz is preparing to build sales through the roll-out of the C63 AMG in coupe, sedan and wagon variants later this year and early next year, the expanded S-Class Coupe variants arriving in June and the just-launched CLS-Class range.

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