BEIJING – Even though the All New Mercedes-Benz E-Class Long Wheelbase is squarely aimed at its two biggest rivals – Audi A6L and BMW 5 Series, its core aim is to outperform its own previous generation model, according to senior executives at the launch of the exclusive model dedicated to the Chinese market on August 22.
“We would be quite disappointed if we can’t do significantly better than the previous generation E-Class,” said Hubertus Troska, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Greater China, in an interview with CBU/CAR prior to the launch event. “The E-Class sits at the core of our brand and it is even more important for us here in China. It’s the segment where we continue to have the biggest gap between our German competitors.”
The All New E-Class Long Wheelbase is the 10th generation model in the 69-year history of the model series and the 3rd generation to be Chinese-produced at Beijing Benz Automotive Co., Ltd. (BBAC), which started with production of the 8th generation E-Class in 2005. With a price tag of ¥436,000-¥496,000 for the E200L, E300L Style, and E300L Exclusive variants in either Sedan or Sport Sedan variants, the All New E-Class Long Wheelbase has been dubbed by many in the industry as the “best premium sedan under ¥500,000.”
In order to catch up with its key rivals, a lot of effort and investment in the areas of design, technological features and appointments have been put into the model, according to Troska. At the launch event, the company touted the model’s intelligence in terms of design, assisted driving and connectivity, many of which were designed exclusive for the Chinese market (see SIDEBAR), and make the vehicle a true benchmark in its segment.
“These are features that we previously did not have, but now offer in a further developed form which truly provides Chinese drivers with increased safety, ease and driving comfort on Chinese roads,” said Nicholas Speeks, President and CEO of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Co., Ltd. (BMBS.). “A lot has been done in the areas which are important to Chinese consumers, in order to not only meet their demands but exceed their expectations of automotive intelligence and delighting their senses. We aimed to deliver a real value for money product, and we have achieved that goal.”
Troska echoed Speeks’ comments, saying that the success of the All New E-Class Long Wheelbase will not only be defined by sales volume, but also whether customers can appreciate the value of the vehicle.
“We strive to put so much product substance and desirability into our products so that customers will be willing to pay a slight premium for Mercedes vehicles compared to other products,” said Troska. “We not only have advanced our sales numbers, but have managed to increase our perceived brand value, because our customers are willing to pay a premium, which makes us very happy.”
The E-Class Long Wheelbase, according to Speeks, will be targeted at people who are successful and have a certain standing in their professional and personal lives. “The value of the car and what it expresses resonates with people who reside in the professional and entrepreneurial echelons in China and form the core and backbone of what China has achieved over the years,” said Speeks.
When asked if Mercedes-Benz can surpass the competitors this year in China with the help of the All New E-Class Long Wheelbase, Speeks again stressed the importance of delivering outstanding products, services and maintaining the value of the brand, rather than simply catching up to a competitor.
“We are very mindful of the investment placed on us by our multitude of partners. It’s not quite as simple as just going out and saying we want to beat competitors. You have to look at a multitude of factors,” said Speeks, who believes that this year will be a transition year for the E-Class. “It is safe to say that we are at least hopeful and have a certain sense of confidence mixed with humility that we will perform better in the premium brand this year. China will make a contribution along with many other markets, but it’s not actually required of us to beat competitors in China. We have closed the gap significantly with our competitors, but our journey is not yet finished.”
Features exclusive to the Chinese market:
Long Wheelbase (3,079 mm and 140 mm long than the standard model)
Third fixed window (inspired by the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class)
Dual 12.3-inch high-resolution displays
Touch Control buttons on the steering wheel
64-color ambient lighting
Luxury rear head restraints
Electrically-adjustable rear seats
High End Filter
Distance Pilot DISTRONIC
Active Brake Assist
WeChat-My Car (where the car can be added as a “friend” on WeChat)