Fleet News

Quality fears for SA-built C-class

MERCEDES-Benz's decision to build right-hand drive versions of its new C-class in South Africa in a bid to reduce waiting times has raised concerns over quality and a question mark over residual values for the compact luxury range.

Although the manufacturer insists every car for the UK assembled in its plant in the sea port of East London will undergo the same test procedures and use the same parts as left-hand-drive C-class derivatives built in Germany, British used market dealers will be wary of them, CAP Motor Research warns. E-class models for Australia have been built in South Africa for several years and Mercedes-Benz has invested E170 million on a new assembly line for the latest C-class, which is to be launched in saloon format in Britain in September.

At the international press preview of the new range in Frankfurt, Dr Joachim Schmidt, deputy member of the board of management responsible for Mercedes-Benz passenger car sales and marketing, said: 'I promise you will not be able to differentiate. There will be 100% the same parts and 100% the same quality and finish.'

But Martin Ward, CAP's national research manager, believes UK dealers will treat the South African-sourced cars with more caution than if they had been built in Germany. 'No manufacturer who has built cars outside the home country has got it right first time - we've seen that with the M-class (USA), the BMW 3-series 1.8is models (South Africa), BMW Z3 (USA) and Subaru Justy (Poland),' he said. 'People buying a Mercedes expect German engineering and quality and expect the cars to have been built in Germany. Dealers here are going to be nervous accepting them for disposal.'

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