Will you buy the new Mercedes A Class?

Mercedes launches its premium hatchback, the A Class

Ashish K Mishra
Updated: May 30, 2013 03:29:44 PM UTC
The Mercedes Benz A-Class

Mercedes Benz today launched its premium hatchback, the A Class in the Indian market. The car will be available in both petrol and diesel versions. The A 180 CDI Style (diesel) has been launched at a price of Rs. 21. 9 lakh (ex showroom Mumbai) and the A 180 Sport (petrol) will be available at a price of Rs. 22.7 (ex showroom Mumbai). The company has quoted a fuel efficiency of 20.06 kmpl (diesel) and 15.50 kmpl (petrol).

At the launch, Eberhard Kern, managing director and CEO of Mercedes Benz India said he is targeting younger buyers. Who would be his target customer? A guy who is 26 years old (he assumed the name Vihan), has a post-graduate degree from a foreign university, his father has a large business in India and is now back in the country to take over his dad’s empire. Vihan loves to party, loves Formula 1 and spends a lot of time on social media.

Well, Mr. Kern’s Vihan certainly looks good as a prospective buyer, but then I checked with a couple of experts if the A Class can get Mercedes back in the volumes game. After all, the company has lost its No. 1 spot to Audi and BMW in the last five years. “Can the A Class get Merc into the volumes game? No. It is a halo product that will pique interest from premium hatchbacks but will not do volumes because of its price. There are other options that provide more value around the same price,” said Bertrand D’ Souza, editor at Overdrive magazine.

There are other skeptics too. Most prominently, Michael Perschke, the outspoken head of Audi India. Earlier today at about 10 AM, Perschke tweeted-- Here is the big question of the day? Why buy an #A Class @ 23L as petrol when you can get a #Q3 2.0 Tdi with 177 bhp Diesel quattro power @27L.

The guys at Mercedes are obviously not too happy about this. I spoke with Boris Fitz, director, member of the board of management, sales and network development at Mercedes. He believes the Indian market is ready for a premium compact hatchback. “It has been a success the world over, I don’t see any reason why we should not bring a product like this to India,” he said. “Anything new does have skeptics but Mercedes Benz has been around for 126 years and I believe will be around for the next 126,” he added.

I think the A Class is certainly a great looker. But it will address a very niche audience - perhaps the well heeled looking for a second or third car. Mohan Mariwala, owner of Auto Hangar, one of the largest dealers for Mercedes Benz in the country says that this is a bold move by the company. “This opens up a new segment in the luxury car market and we should credit Mercedes for that,” he added. For now, there’s no competition for the A Class in the premium hatchback segment. In September this year, there will be one in the form of BMW 1 series.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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