Mercedes-Benz is abandoning variable service gaps across Europe on its new C-Class range as the result of the influence from the UK market’s business car fleet-buying sector.


And the powerful British fleet community has also been instrumental in the UK importer rationalising its domestic range to replace the Classic models with a business-specific SE model.


The fourth generation C-Class sedan is due on sale in Europe during April and reaches British showrooms two months later.


DaimlerChrysler UK CEO Wilfried Steffen said: “Rationalising the range for the C-Class, which is our crucial luxury sector entry model, is part of our strategy in the vital business sales territory.”


Steffen welcomed the return to defined service internals of 25,000 kilometres or 15,500 miles.


He conceded: “Flexible gaps did not meet the demands of the corporate market and made it difficult to predict service budgets within a car’s whole life costs and the service, maintenance and repair parameters. The UK business car community drove this change.”


Martin Ward, manufacturing relationship manager for the CAP-Monitor used car valuation agency, explained the importance of the change to Mercedes, whose C-Class has been outsold 2-1 by BMW’s 3-Series in the UK. The 3-Series was the UK’s eighth best selling car last year, ahead of Ford’s Mondeo and GM Europe’s Vauxhall (Opel) Vectra.


Ward said: “Leasing companies particularly err on the side of caution and factor in drivers who drive their cars hard, thereby increasing the service gap frequency, rather than those who drive more gently. It can translate into a difference of GBP20 to GBP30 in monthly leasing or rental rates.”


He added: “[The fixed service interval] restores consistency and removes the element of doubt for Mercedes who are sometimes wrongly accused of having expensive servicing costs.”


In Britain the SE entry model, the highest-volume variant, applies the increasingly popular logic of incorporating a higher standard specification for a more tax-friendly price, which dictates the pivotal “benefit in kind” tax liability for corporate drivers.


Another factor, which affects the influential fleet sector, claimed Steffen, is the higher level of active and passive safety for the new C-Class. He said: “With the duty of care dimension now affecting employers and fleets, safety equipment is of growing relevance.”


It is believed that the return to fixed interval servicing will be progressively re-introduced across Mercedes range and internal figures compiled by the automaker show that flexible gaps vary from 15,000 to 20,000 miles.


Hugh Hunston