In ordinary circumstances, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia might opt to launch its performance-driven cars at the Sepang International Circuit. While this location lacks the glamour and glitz of the capital, it does provide the opportunity for the cars to be put to the test on the undulating curves of the deeply technical circuit, considered a true motor racing masterpiece from designer Hermann Tilke. As the cars are positioned at the paddock for maximum exposure to press cameras and public attention, aficionados can appreciate its handsome exteriors and luxurious interiors. This is a Mercedes-Benz, after all.
But these are not ordinary times. The implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) no longer allows for such experiences, and things are unlikely to change in the near future as our battle against Covid-19 continues. But automotive trends continue to evolve and new cars are set to arrive on the roads. Digital premieres are the obvious answer here — unveil the car across multiple digital channels and arrange a test drive at a nearby dealership for those whose interest is piqued. To ensure peace of mind during these interactions, the marque adheres to its Star Shield programme, which is a comprehensive safety plan for showroom visits, test drives and routine servicing and repairs.
The Star of Stuttgart kicked off the second half of the year with a digital launch of three new models in the Mercedes-AMG family — the A 35 4MATIC, A 45 S 4MATIC+ and CLA 45 S 4MATIC+. This trio presents a benchmark in the compact segment owing to the demand for such models, which has developed very dynamically in recent years. With these latest models, Mercedes-AMG not only leads the market segment in terms of performance and driving excitement but also in reaching the youngest-ever AMG clientele.
A total of 200,000 people caught the June 1 launch, which was streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s vice-president of sales and marketing for passenger cars Michael Jopp took everyone through the three new models and later fielded questions together with president and CEO Dr Claus Weidner. The 40-minute launch did what it set out to do quickly and efficiently — unveil the cars to the public, showcase their major unique selling propositions while establishing an avenue for discussion and encouraging potential buyers to register for test drives.
“I think everyone in the industry is craving for news after two months of silence,” Jopp quips in a video interview the day after the launch. “The dealers have already received requests for test drives and that’s very encouraging. I hope this is a good sign of recovery, going forward. We are very excited to be back in business, but in preparing for a better second half of the year, we are also taking into account existing circumstances, so we are cautiously optimistic and ready to balance expectations against the sentiment on the ground.”
The three new performance-driven cars cater to different types of speed demons within the Mercedes-AMG fan base. For example, the A 45 S 4MATIC+ is designed for someone obsessed with performance, hungry for power and who particularly appreciates the driving experience. Powered by a new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, this beast is capable of accelerating from 0 to 100kph in just 3.9 seconds.
The CLA 45 S 4MATIC+ will stun with its beauty — it is captivating even when stationary. Its front is characterised by a flat, sporty and noticeably enlarged track width while frameless doors flow perfectly into its curved lines. Meanwhile, the A 35 4MATIC hatchback is really your starter Mercedes-AMG — it eases your entry into the powerful AMG universe in a compact class segment that guarantees peak performance. The denim blue colour it comes in is something else, too.
Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s first digital launch was not aimed at attracting new buyers; rather it was to ignite the interest of existing owners ready for a second car. Choosing performance cars for the digital launch was more a matter of timing and sequence — they were meant to have been unveiled much earlier, but the launch was delayed because of the MCO.
“I actually think it’s the perfect car for the digital launch as the AMG cars are so emotional and inspiring,” Jopp comments. “And looking at the reactions we’ve received, I’d say we picked the right cars to do this now.”
The technical details of all three cars vary — and is availble in full online — but what they do have in common strongly identify them as members of the Mercedes-AMG family. As is typical for these supercars, the philosophy “form follows function” applies, with features that include the AMG-specific radiator grille with a wider lower contour and 12 vertical louvres. At the same time, the pronounced nose, slim and deeply contoured headlamps as well as flat, aerodynamic bonnet visually lower the front section to create the impression of a dynamic forward thrust.
The imposing presence is accentuated by the wider front wings with flared wheel arches. These create space for the wider front axle, and underline the cars’ athletic appearance.
Tech-wise, what is interesting is the AMG Track Pace, which operates as a virtual race engineer. Part of Mercedes-Benz’s proprietary MBUX software, Track Pace continuously monitors more than 80 varieties of vehicle-specific data. Everything is shown on the multimedia display, in the instrument cluster and on the optional head-up display. It includes information such as lap and sector times and stores details of circuits — well-known ones like Nürburgring or Spa Francorchamps are already stored, and you can add your own.
Digital launches in various forms are clearly here to stay, but both Jopp and Weidner believe that the marque is likely to create a template for a hybrid approach that brings back the human element. “We are happy with how it all worked out, and it showed us that this is a way we can reach a huge number of people,” Weidner says. “In the future, digital launches may be an additional layer or twist to how we conduct our face-to-face events.”
“Personally, I miss the direct interaction, which makes it easier for us and our dealers to gauge people’s reactions,” Jopp says. “A major aspect of our business is emotion, and if we can convey the emotion of the cars digitally, it’s great, but we still need to touch and feel and drive the cars.”
The Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC, A 45 S 4MATIC+ and CLA 45 S 4MATIC+ are priced at RM379,888, RM459,888 and RM448,888 respectively. For more details, visit mercedes-benz.com.my.
This article first appeared on June 8, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.