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Interview: Mercedes-Benz India's Santosh Iyer on the A-Class, locally manufactured AMGs and upcoming products

Team OD Published: March 08, 2021, 10:31 AM IST

We caught up with Santosh Iyer, VP of sales and marketing at Mercedes-Benz India, on the sidelines of our A-Class drive to pick his brain on Mercedes' strategy with its smaller cars, on more AMGs made in India and much more.

On the intent behind launching the A-Class

We invented the entry-level luxury segment back in 2013 with the A-Class hatch as a CBU, then the B-Class, GLA and the CLA,  We have sold around 22,000 of these cars over the years, so its a big one for us. And last year,  because of various reasons, we couldn't have any product in this segment which created a vacuum. With experience from the CLA, we knew that the customer wanted a bit more practicality with better headroom, luggage space and at the same time good styling. On the back of this our decision to localize the A-Class for the Indian market was taken a couple of years back.

On replacing the CLA with the A-Class

We have two types of customers in this segment. One a luxury dweller, who has multiple luxury cars in their family and they buy the A-Class as an additional car in the family. And then we have the first time buyers who come into the segment. So the car has to meet both these segment profiles. Even the luxury customers use these cars for long drives with family so there is a need for space. The new A-Class is stylish and aerodynamic and when you add the extra interior and boot space and the connectivity, that's a much better package for India.

On the GLA coming to India

Our entire lineup is now quite clean with sedan and SUV body styles in each price bracket. The GLA is just a couple of months away in Q2 2021. It's just that in our planning the A-Class came first because the hatch used to be a better seller in the Indian market.

On the Limousine moniker

I think for us the communication is clear that this is a full-blown luxury car without a compromise, hence no entry-level variants It has ample space even for the rear passengers. The headroom is there, the luggage space is there. So that's why just to be clear, we want we use the word limousine

On the A-Class pricing...

The model that we will launch will be fully specced with all the features including Mercedes me connect as standard in the car. So we want to focus more on value. Bookings have opened at Rs 42 lakh that's an indication we will be premium priced in the segment. But I think the overall value proposition is much better with a better cost of ownership, end of lifecycle RVs, etc..

On the petrol vs diesel debate...

I think we are clearly seeing a gradual shift to petrol, especially in markets like Delhi and Mumbai where the average driving kilometres are not much. Already the new GLC has a very strong share in the petrol segment, more than the diesel. So, consumer preference is surely changing. Within the A-Class we will also have the A 35 AMG, which will be fully localized. So that gives us again, a very different powertrain offering to the customer, getting an entry into the AMG brand with the A-class.

On AMG localization

The A 35 AMG is going to be the smallest AMG that we have produced in India. It's the second AMG that we will produce in India after the GLC 43 AMG, which's been a roaring success. This shows that localization of performance cars is a great way to get these cars to enthusiasts, of course, at a lower price. As for the 63-series AMG, these will only come in as CBUs. They are made with the one man one engine philosophy in Affalterbach which is AMG's home and there is a sense of history attached to it. And this will remain so in the future as well

On upcoming products...

After the A-Class this quarter and the GLA in the next one, we have 15 cars to launch this year. On the other side, there is a long backlog for cars that have already launched like the GLS and the GLE. So we are looking to ramp up production before we start introducing new models because there are customers waiting for the current cars. So H2 will see a lot of cars getting introduced but right now our focus is to cater to existing demand and the new demand from the A-Class and GLA.

Read our review of the Mercedes-AMG A 35 here

Read our review of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class Limosine here

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 31.72 Lakhs
Displacement
2143cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
135
Max Torque(Nm)
300
Mileage
17.9 Kmpl
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 39.9 Lakhs
Displacement
1950cc
Transmission
Automatic
Max Power(ps)
150
Max Torque(Nm)
320
Mileage
21.35 Kmpl
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