Let’s be honest: apart from the C-Class sedan, Mercedes-Benz doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to selling small cars in the U.S. A rash of subcompacts (remember the C-Class Sport Coupe) never exactly caught on with the buying public, but the company hopes a rash of new models -- starting with the next-generation A-Class -- will reverse that trend.
As we’ve previously reported, Mercedes is looking at spinning a handful of vehicles from its new front-wheel-drive Mercedes Front Architecture (MFA) platform. Although this platform assuredly underpins the next A-Class (previewed by the Concept A-Class shown at the New York and Shanghai shows), Automotive News reports three other variants are planned, even for the U.S. market: a small crossover (the GLC), a small coupe-like sedan (the CLC), and potentially a small, electric-powered van. Regardless of the body style, the automaker hopes to price each and every MFA variant below $30,000. For context, the least expensive offering in Mercedes-Benz’s U.S. lineup is the $36,775 C300 sedan.
During a recent conversation with Nat Sijanta, product line manager for Mercedes-Benz’s global small cars, we learned all non-electric vehicles built from the MFA platform will use I-4 engines, similar to the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder previewed in the Concept A-Class. Automatic and manual transmissions will be offered in Europe, but vehicles destined for North America will likely see only a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Sijanta also emphasized the inclusion of standard safety technology -- including Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe and Brake Assist systems -- as a means of extending the brand’s reputation for safety innovation down to its smallest offerings.
What will these models look like? We’ve yet to see sketches of any of the variants, but the MFA cars will likely bear a close resemblance to that Concept A-Class. The design is a dramatic (and refreshing) departure from the upright, ovoid shapes we’ve seen on previous A- and B-Class models.
A precise timeline for a U.S. introduction is still unknown, although the 2013 A-Class will launch in Europe by the end of 2012.
Does Mercedes-Benz appear to be (at long last) on top of its small-car game in North America, or does the automaker need to rethink its compact car strategy? Submit your predictions and suggestions to us by way of the comments field below.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)