A Honda by Mercedes-Benz – The Emergency Lane

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Suppose, as a car manufacturer, you want to build and sell cars in a market that is completely new to you. Then of course you can go there and build a factory all by yourself, but you can also take a more pragmatic approach. That is the story of the special partnership between Honda and Mercedes-Benz in South Africa.

Car brands that look up each other can sometimes lead to unusual combinations. Think, for example, of ASC McLaren or the collaboration between Daihatsu and De Tomaso. Much earlier, Porsche and the American car manufacturer Studebaker also worked together on one car. There are many more combinations to be made, but today Honda and Mercedes-Benz are in the spotlight.

A new market

Honda set its sights on the South African market in the early 1980s. However, the Japanese did not build any cars there, nor did they have a dealer network. It would take many years to build, not to mention the investment involved. Instead, Honda decided to look for a partner in South Africa. That partner was eventually found in Mercedes-Benz.

A Honda by Mercedes-Benz – The Emergency Lane

The first Honda Ballad.

The choice for the brand with the star was made for a good reason. After all, Mercedes-Benz had been active in South Africa since 1948 and had a car factory in East London. There, Honda was able to build the Ballade, a Civic-based sedan that was a few steps higher than its hatchback counterpart in terms of equipment. That car was sold in the showrooms of Mercedes-Benz as a luxury entry-level model. Mercedes-Benz also benefited from this assignment, because in addition to the fact that Honda paid for the production of the Ballade, the Germans suddenly reached a completely new audience through their showrooms. In addition, many Mercedes owners reportedly bought a Ballade as a second car.

In other words, a win-win situation arose: Mercedes-Benz suddenly sold many more cars in South Africa and Honda was able to build up a strong reputation, partly thanks to the Germans: that of an affordable brand, but with Mercedes-like quality. The collaboration lasted until 2001 and thus spanned several generations of the Ballade. The name that was invented to give the Civic a more dignified image, then disappeared for a long time to return to the South African market in 2011. Today that model is still available, but the new Ballade is based on the Honda City.

Honda and AMG

With an AMG you might think of a brutal Mercedes-Benz with a thick eight-cylinder under the hood. But the Honda Ballade also received AMG treatment from 1996! This included a sportier chassis, special alloy wheels, leather upholstery and ABS. In addition, AMG increased the power to 175 hp for the D16A engine in the Ballade 160i. Strangely enough, the 180i had the B18B4 engine with 160 hp. You would expect that the higher number also entails more power.

Honda Ballade

Honda Ballad by AMG. Through Car Throttle.

It is probably one of AMG’s least known creations. This is also apparent from the fact that there is almost no footage of it to be found. The above image, unfortunately in low resolution, we found through the British forum Car Throttle. This clearly shows that the sporty Ballade is lower to the ground. The wheels also somewhat resemble what AMG delivered on its own models at the time, and the Ballade in AMG outfit had a modest rear spoiler. A special combination!

Incidentally, the Ballade was not the only Japanese product that AMG ventured into. In collaboration with Mitsubishi, the tuner from Affalterbach also made special versions of the Galant and the Debonair for the Japanese market. But that is fodder for another edition of De Vlucht Strip in the future.

– Thanks for information from Autoweek.nl

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