Despite the $35,600 pricetag the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback has more standard equipment than a $35,990 Holden Commodore SV6 sedan.
The budget-priced baby Benz -- loaded with nine airbags, a rear view camera and a crash alert system, among other standard fare -- is the starkest example yet of the challenges facing local car makers.
The prices of imported cars are at record lows thanks to the sustained strength of the dollar, and Australians are living it up.
Imported cars now account for 90 per cent of new vehicles sold; a decade ago imports represented 75 per cent of the market. Half a century ago they represented less than half of new car sales.
“Last week we had the highest order intake in our 50-plus year history in Australia,” said Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy. “Mercedes-Benz is no longer out of reach of the ordinary Australian.”
As a further sign of our changing taste in cars, last year the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan was the second-highest selling medium-size car behind the Toyota Camry and ahead of the Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty.
Mercedes typically sells about 350 cars a week but dealer sources say this figure climbed to almost double that in the lead-up to the launch of the new model.
“Half of the buyers of our new cars have never owned a Mercedes-Benz before,” McCarthy said. “That shows you they’re coming from all types of cars and all walks of life.”
To ensure buyers aren’t scared off by high service costs, Mercedes has a fixed price servicing deal: $1400 covers all routine servicing for the first 50,000km. A Nissan Maxima V6 sedan costs almost $2000 to service over the same period.