Mercedes-Benz was in the spotlight again last week, when its new compact executive car - the result of a joint venture with the Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co Ltd - made its debut at China's National Indoor Stadium in Beijing.
But, being in the spotlight is nothing new for the German luxury carmaker, which has been on the fast track in China for the past few years. This new C-Class sedan is expected to boost sales in a competitive market by attracting more young buyers.
The company said that the revamped C-Class is sure to be the "perfect dream car" for today's young elite in China. That's because of its intelligent drive control, dynamic exterior, and luxurious interior, with more elegance. The price tag: 308,000 yuan to 463,000.
Frank Deiss, president and CEO of the joint venture - the Beijing Benz Automotive Co Ltd - expanded on the car's merits, "This new generation C-Class embraces a more dynamic designs, and is an important sign of a younger Mercedes-Benz brand image that will expand its customer group."
Deiss went on to say that, "The new model will change consumers' earlier perceptions that Mercedes-Benz is way beyond their reach and it will draw consumers closer to Mercedes-Benz."In fact, the C-Class is Mercedes-Benz's bestseller worldwide. The first model entered the market in 1982 (referred to at the time as the 190), and went on to sell more than 8.5 million worldwide. This newer model has over 2,000 parts and components that have been improved from the previous model and the company is convinced that, by combining agility, safety and comfort, it will remain in the lead in its segment.
This model is equipped with Mercedes-Benz's enhanced CGI gasoline engine and 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission. This could greatly improve its performance while significantly reducing fuel consumption, the company has said.
The new C 200 can cut fuel consumption to 6.9 liters per 100 km, compared with the 7.9 liters of the previous generation, which had a 5G-TRONIC transmission. In addition, the new C 200 can go from zero to 100 km/hr in just 7.8 seconds, or 0.5 second less than the previous model.
The new car also comes with Mercedes-Benz's cutting-edge PRE-SAFE system and other intelligent equipment such as Adaptive Brake, Adaptive High Beam Assist system, and active parking assist systems. Previously these were only used on the more expensive models such as the S-Class and E-Class.
Also not previously seen in a C-Class car is the Attention Assist system. Traffic authorities say that about one-fourth of highway accidents are the result of tired or absent-minded drivers. But, the new generation C-Class' Attention Assist system, which employs the latest radar and sensor technology, can monitor the driver's actions and warn him or her of potential risks. Then there is the tailor-made Linguatronic multi-media Chinese voice command system, a Mercedes-Benz first. It recognizes tones and rhythm and allows the driver to communicate with the car easily.
Fu Qiang, executive vice-president for sales and marketing at Beijing Benz, said that the new C-Class will really win the hearts of more elite young Chinese and allow the company to maintain its leading position in the medium luxury sedan market.
Mercedes-Benz sold 148,000 vehicles in China, last year, more than double the 2009 total. The joint venture's cars accounted for more than 30 percent of those sales. And, in the first five months of this year, sales of Beijing Benz's C-Class cars were 58 percent above the same period last year, taking a 23-percent share of its segment in China.
Mercedes-Benz also produces the long-wheel base E-Class in China. Beijing Benz now has an annual production capacity of 80,000 C-Class and E-Class cars. The joint venture's production capacity will climb to 110,000 units annually early next year, and to 300,000 or more units by 2015, the company has said.
Under a new Beijing Automotive joint venture deal with Daimler AG (Mercedes' parent company), the two will put 2 billion euros into local expansion and begin producing the GLK compact SUV later this year and three other compact models after 2013.
In the meantime, Beijing Benz laid the foundation for a new engine plant, earlier this month, which is expected to begin operations in two years. It has a designed annual output of 250,000 gasoline engines for locally built Mercedes-Benz cars. Mercedes-Benz plans to produce and sell 300,000 cars in China in 2015 - 70 percent of them from Beijing Benz's plant.