Locally-Assembled E-Class Launched

Locally-Assembled E-Class Launched

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Just three weeks after starting operations, DaimlerChrysler Malaysia Sdn Bhd (DCM) – which is 51% owned by DaimlerChrysler AG – launches its first product, the locally-assembled version of the latest Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W211). It’s a coincidence, of course, that the car is being launched so soon after the new company, which handles distribution and marketing, began operations as the plan to assemble the model was made quite some time ago when Cycle & Carriage Bintang was handling the franchise.

With pricetags (excluding insurance) of RM342,418.02 for the E 200K and RM420,258.13 for the E 240, there are obviously savings compared to the completely built-up (CBU) imported units. However, it is only possible to make a direct comparison on the E 240 where the local version is about 16% cheaper. For the time being, official CBU imports are only of the E240 and E 270 CDI turbodiesel.

It should also be noted that the locally-assembled models are of the Elegance trim level whereas the imported ones, which are supplied by NZ Wheels, are of the Avantgarde trim level. Generally, the equipment features are comprehensive and of a high standard but the Elegance models do not have the panoramic sunroof and bi-xenon headlamps. However, in other respects, the E200K and E 240 still come with a lot of technical innovations – no less than 30 significant ones – which are inherent in this new generation.

Standard equipment includes 5-speed automatic transmission with Touchshift, dual front airbags with 2-stage deployment, sidebags for front and rear passengers, windowbags, ABS + Brake Assist, cruise control, Parktronic, rain sensor, Sensotronic Brake Control, ESP and leather upholstery.

Incidentally, the engine for the E200K is the new 1796 cc 4-cylinder unit which delivers 120 kW/163 bhp and 240 Nm of torque between 3000 and 4000 rpm. The E 240 is a V6 with 130 kW/177 bhp and also generates the same amount of torque as the smaller engine which gets its boost from a compressor.

Speaking at the press preview this morning, Frank Steinleitner, President/CEO of DCM, said the company expects to sell 3,500 cars in 2003, 13% up from the 2002 volume. The E-Class last year accounted for about a third of the sales and it is likely that this could increase in 2003 now that the new model is available.

“We will offer the locally-assembled E240 first and the E 200K will come in March. Of course, customers can still buy the CBU models which have more variants and for those who want sportier versions, there is also the AMG-tuned E-Class,” he said.

On the new set-up, Mr Steinleitner said that DCM will focus a lot on after-sales service. He also mentioned that DaimlerChrysler has a broad range of brands and products which suggests that the company could also be looking at introducing products such as Smart and even Chrysler/Jeep in future. It is, however, a certainty that the Maybach will appear in Malaysia and he confirmed that there is already at least one customer.

With regards to prices, he said that there are many factors which make it difficult to say if prices will become lower. The strength of the Euro is a major determining factor. Nevertheless, for the pricing of the new E-Class, he explained that though the retail prices are higher compared to the previous generation, the overall package offered is better and therefore better in terms of value for money.

DCM will be an integral part of DaimlerChrysler operations in the region and Mr Steinleitner revealed that the company had assured the government that it will make Malaysia a production hub in ASEAN. The extent of investments to be made has not been decided due to uncertainty with government policies at this time.

“Once we know and understand what the longer-term government plans are for the auto industry, we will make our plans and they can be done quite quickly. The thing is getting the policies clearly stated, so we are waiting for their official announcements,” he said.


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