A stolen white Mercedes has gone up in flames in Auckland this afternoon as assailants fled the scene.

Multiple witnesses captured the sizzling car on film at 5pm on Saturday, after it caught alight on Great South Rd in Papatoetoe.

One fire truck arrived and several firefighters doused the car with a high pressure hose.

One witness said he had watched three people jump out of the car moments before it went up in flames.

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Smoke was pouring out of the hood.

"They had obviously been smashing it," he said.

Immediately another car pulled up beside them and urged the people to get in.

The trio was arguing about whether to leave the car behind, the witness said.

Police showed up moments later and spoke to witnesses.

Fire and Emergency northern communications shift manager Eric Smith said car fires were frequent and tended to start in the engine compartment.

"It gets pretty hot in there and if there's a fuel leak or something, or it overheats, it's quite quick. If someone is in that situation they have to get out of the car because it goes up quite quickly."

A police spokeswoman confirmed the car was stolen and said police were making inquiries into the incident.

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The alleged offenders were still outstanding.