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Mercedes heads for 11,000 Australian sales

Touch of C-class: The new C-class arrives en masse in November.

Mercedes-Benz sets its sights on breaking sales records

29 May 2000

MERCEDES-Benz Australia aims to break the magic 10,000 sales barrier next year with more than 11,000 passenger and 4WD sales in 2001.

The sales target for 2000 is 9920 vehicles, though managing director of Mercedes-Benz Australia Mr Roman Fischer said the present order intake rate suggested the target would be beaten.

Last year, Mercedes-Benz sold 8520 passenger vehicles and 4WDs in Australia The new C-class arrives en masse in November from the newly constructed South African assembly plant.

Benz is hoping between 700 and 900 new C-class cars will reach buyers before the end of the year, helping to fill the gap left by the departing generation cars which are now in run-out mode.

Mr Fischer hopes to sell as many as 3500 C-class sedans next year, far more than the best C-class year so far, 1996, when 2600 were sold.

The new range will kick off with the C180, with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, that will account for about 50 per cent of total sales. Standard equipment will include six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic traction and stability control and climate control air conditioning, although the last item forms part of the local company's wishlist rather than confirmed kit at this stage.

The C180 should start below the magic luxury tax threshold, at about $53,000, cheaper than the outgoing car which has had alloy wheels, electronic stability traction control and tip-shift automatic transmission options loaded into it to help the runout program.

The range-topping C320 V6 is expected to be priced under $100,000, complete with leather, alloys, climate control, CD player and sunroof. Final specification is to be hammered out in the next few months.

The company hopes the new C200 Kompressor model, with significantly more power and torque than the out-going C200 normally aspirated engine, will attract more buyers, while the 2.6-litre C240 and 3.2-litre C320 models will attract about 10 per cent each.

Each of the three trim levels will be available with the choice of standard or sports suspension packages.

Next July Benz will add the C220 CDI four-cylinder turbo-diesel model and is mulling over the V8-challenging five-cylinder 270 CDI turbo-diesel, which has almost 400Nm of torque on tap.

The C180 entry model has been a successful sales magnet for the company with about half all C180 buyers drawn in from other makes. The average age of a C180 buyer in Australia is 48, lower than across the C-class range where the average age is 53-54.

Mercedes-Benz will aim the new car at buyers in the 35-45 age group and wants to broaden the number of women buying C-class cars from about 10 per cent to closer to half all sales. Average incomes for C180 buyers are $80,000 to $90,000.

The new factory in South Africa has a capacity for 40,000 cars a year and will eventually supply all right-hand drive markets for the C-class. Japan and the United Kingdom are expected to be the biggest markets for the right-hand drive cars.

Mr Fischer said the quality of the cars emerging from the South African plant would be identical to those built in Bremen or Sindelfingen, Germany.

He said that initially the South African cars would be assembled from complete kits exported from Germany but that later into the production cycle some South African parts such as tyres and batteries would be added.

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