New Mercedes-Benz A-Class at Rs 21.9 lakh

Eberhard Kern at the launch of Mercedez Benz A Class Mercedes-Benz today launched its much-awaited compact luxury car, A Class, at Rs 21.9 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai), after a weeks-long promotional campaign.

The four-seater A Class, which slightly shares its front with the C Class sedan, made its way into the Indian market after a glitzy ceremony held at a suburban hotel here.

The Germany-based car maker, which has been struggling with declining sales in India since the past two years after BMW and Audi gained ground, priced the latest model slightly higher than its older sibling B Class (Rs 21.49 lakh), launched in September last year.

Mercedes has launched the A Class in both petrol and diesel versions, with the petrol model priced higher (at Rs 22.7 lakh) than the diesel version.

Globally the A Class has garnered bookings of more than 90,000 within a few months of launch, however, the response from India will be known in the next few weeks. Presently the A and B Class cars are the cheapest to own luxury cars in the country. The entry cars of BMW (X1) and Audi (3 series) are priced above Rs 25 lakh.  

Despite the low price the A Class is packed with features which are most commonly seen in luxury cars of the premium kind. Amongst the set of features the A Class encourages the driver to take a break when they become inattentive and automatically takes command of the steering wheel to take keep the car on safe path.

Complete with seven airbags, electronic stability program, acceleration skid control, anti lock braking system among several other features, the A Class is the safest compact car in India.

The A Class is expected to further bolster the numbers for Mercedes in India after a successful launch of the B Class in 2012. The compact car is touted to become one of the largest selling models for the company.

Riding high on the B Class demand, Mercedes reportedly climbed to the second spot in the January-March period this year in the list of India's largest manufacturers of luxury cars, tailing Volkswagen-owned, German giant Audi.

Several hundred kilometers south, arch-rival BMW who is fighting hard to regain the top spot from Audi, which it held for three consecutive years, rolled out its saloon at the other end of the price spectrum from its Chennai plant.

The Chennai plant, one of the few BMW-owned plants globally, has become the new assembly unit for the all-new luxury sedan BMW 730 Ld, priced at Rs 9,290,000 (ex-showroom). Other three petrol models of the 7 series (740Li, 750Li and the 760Li) will be fully imported into the country as completely built units.

BMW was pushed to the number three spot this year after reporting massive declines in sales following a decision to abolish the practice of discounting and later increasing the prices earlier in the year. Audi and Mercedes too followed suit and raised their prices.

Despite a discouraging performance BMW will not apply brakes when it comes to new launches. Taking a leaf out of Mercedes book for India BMW will launch the 1 Series later this year pitting it directly against the Mercedes A and B Class. The 1 series will share the production facility with other BMW models at the Chennai plant.