Motor Show 1993: Wide range of high-quality choices in executive sector: Martin Derrick examines new models for the upper echelons

WITH THE new company car taxation regime coming in next April - based on a percentage of the list price, rather than as now on a combination of engine size and list price that leads to some ridiculous distortions - the jury is out on exactly how the executive car sector is going to react.

Will new company car tax scales lead to more downsizing as executives strive to reduce their tax bills? Or will status considerations ensure continued high demand for the best the motor industry can offer?

Certainly there is no lack of brand-new models. Take, for example, the new Saab 900, a model developed in conjunction with General Motors, which bought Saab a few years ago. With its launch today, Saab is determined to prove that quality can be found at reasonable cost.

As Will Edwyn-Jones, managing director, puts it: 'Our aggressive pricing will combine with lower insurance premiums to nail the myth that running a Saab is any more expensive than many other cars.'

Certainly its price - starting from pounds 15,995 - is well below its most immediate competitors - the BMW 318i, the Audi 80 2.0E and the Mercedes-Benz C180. And thanks largely to a unique low-speed crash protection system which is designed to protect body components from damage in frontal impacts up to 12mph, insurance groups for the 900 are lower than on the old 900 model which it replaces.

Add to this low servicing and repair costs and it is no wonder that Mr Edwyn-Jones is bullish about the 900's prospects in the company car market.

But the competitors are not letting this new challenge go unanswered. BMW, for example, is introducing new intercooled diesel engines for its best-selling 3-Series cars which set new standards in terms of refinement and performance for diesel engines.

Audi has announced a new entry-level 1.6-litre 80SE model, which at pounds 13,456 is nearly pounds 1,300 less than the previous entry-level Audi 80. 'Now we can appeal to even more private customers and company car drivers,' says Kevin Rose, head of Audi Marketing.

But perhaps the biggest shake-up in the executive sector of the marketplace will come from the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz C-class range. The cars, which replace the 190, went on sale in early October - with over 3,000 advance orders from customers who had not even seen them.

For not only is the C-Class astonishingly refined in its performance; not only is its engineering solidity and build quality still perhaps the finest in the world, but it has also been designed and styled to appeal to a broader spectrum of the car-buying public.

Hans Tauscher, MercedesBenz UK managing director, explains: 'We quite clearly did not want a new car that was so radical that it would not appeal to our heartland of very satisfied 190 customers. On the other hand, it had to be different enough to tempt new buyers to whom Mercedes did not have enough youthful or - let me call it - sex appeal.'

The differentiation is largely in trim and specification levels which allow customers to choose from four different versions of one basic design: Classic for traditional Mercedes customers, Elegance for those requiring more luxury still, Sport for performance-biased buyers and finally Esprit - the version specifically aimed at younger buyers through a combination of striking exterior colours and innovative interior trim materials.

Time will tell whether Mercedes will attract the new customers, but Mr Tauscher believes the portents are good - especially because he feels the new company car tax system works in the favour of companies like Mercedes-Benz. 'It will take time for customers to get used to paying more for their cars, but the company car still represents an excellent deal for most people.'

Those looking for a new car in the executive sector of the market and up to around pounds 20,000 are almost spoilt for choice, for apart from these Saab, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz models, there are also the Rover 600 range, Honda Accord (now built in Britain), Mazda Xedos 6, Volvo 850, Renault Safrane, Mitsubishi Galant, and the recently revised Alfa Romeo 164 ranges to consider.

Clearly the motor industry is not too anxious about next year's company car tax hikes.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits