Sometimes our local car manufacturers do peculiar things. Like last Thursday morning, for example, I was told to meet Mercedes-Benz SA at Kyalami Racetrack out in Midrand. Now normally an event at a venue such as this would be held to launch an exciting new vehicle to the press. Except soon after us scribes arrived sometime after 10am, it was evident that there was nothing in the pit lane that we hadn’t seen – or indeed driven – before.
Not that we were complaining. I mean what could be better than being given an opportunity to thrash every single product in the AMG portfolio around the best circuit in South Africa? If that wasn’t enough, the Silver Star had also arranged an enormous buffet of snacks plus a Liquid Chefs mobile bar that made one of the finest iced coffees I have ever tasted. Ah yes but there was a catch. Before we could all jump into our German muscle car of choice and obliterate some very expensive Pirelli tyres, we had to endure a rather longwinded presentation about a maintenance plan.
Now I missed most of what was said. Partly because of the incredible heat and partly because BDlive writer, Alex Parker, kept poking me in the ribs and whispering comments that I couldn’t make out above the voice rumbling over the PA system. But the gist of what was explained basically boils basically down to this: ‘Mercedes-Benz has launched a new maintenance plan called PremiumDrive. This is a standard 100 000km/six-year maintenance plan without any customer contribution. PremiumDrive also holds exclusive additional benefits and extension plans. It is available to all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, including Viano, registered from 1 January 2013 (big hat-tip to the press release).’
If you’re interested, PremiumDrive also offers a free roadside assistance package that covers things like breakdowns and flat batteries and damaged tyres. Which is good to know when you’re travelling around the South African Republic of Shitty Road Surfaces. Mercedes-Benz has also built in a certain degree of customer customization too. Yep, if you think that the standard plan isn’t enough for your free-wheelin’ needs, you can chip in and buy one of four high-mileage extension plans – the biggest of which is PremiumDrive 180 that gives you 180 000km/eight-years cover.
So what happened next? Well the man behind the microphone proceeded to give us a brief history of the AMG sub-brand and explained how it was celebrating its 45th anniversary. Although considering it was founded in 1967, this math didn’t quite add up. Anyway. All was forgiven when we were handed over to the Mercedes-Benz Dynamic Driving crew and told to sample all nine of the AMG models lined up in the paddock. Which I did, happily, until well after 3pm.
In fact the only person still at the circuit when I left was a wild-eyed Derek Watts. And while he seemed to dig the SLS Roadster the most, my two cars of the day were definitely the outrageous SL65 and the extraordinary CLS63 Shooting Brake – an avant-garde estate that makes the thought of parenthood almost bearable.
So was all this pomp and ceremony necessary for a maintenance plan announcement that could have been sent out via group email? The short answer is no. However should other manufacturers take a leaf out of the Mercedes-Benz PR book and follow suit? Yes, most definitely. Because nothing hits the spot better than a day out of the office, a squadron of fast cars and a variety of non-alcoholic cocktails. Random but very, very nice.