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Mercedes-Benz future products: Small cars to drive growth

Tue, 11 Oct 2011

Mercedes-Benz's U.S. executives expect to add volume with a new range of front-wheel-drive compact cars that arrive starting in 2013 and new derivatives of the redesigned C class due in 2014 or 2015.

Around the world, Mercedes will introduce at least 10 new models by 2020 as part of a plan to become the world's top-selling luxury-vehicle brand by then.

But not all of those vehicles will come to the United States. For example, Mercedes-Benz USA won't take any more large station wagons--including the new CLS Shooting Brake or the freshened C-class wagon--because they don't sell well here.

A class: Originally, Mercedes-Benz USA didn't want the new three-door coupe that uses Mercedes' fwd compact car platform. But that decision was reversed this year after U.S. marketing boss Steve Cannon and a product committee that included dealers saw early versions of the new compact line. The sleek design of the Concept A-Class first shown at this year's New York auto show has convinced U.S. management the car can sell in the United States.

The A-class coupe may be called the CLC and will go on sale in 2013 or 2014. Mercedes-Benz has not disclosed the timetable.

B class: Sedan, crossover and five-door wagon/van versions of the next generation of Europe's B class come to the United States starting in 2013. They will be the first fwd cars sold by Mercedes in this country. They may not all be assigned the B-class name. The crossover is likely to be called the GLC. A five-door wagon may be called the CLC Shooting Brake.

The first to arrive here may be the four-door shown at this year's Frankfurt auto show. The cars will be offered with a new series of 1.6- and 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder gasoline engines. Turbodiesel engines will be offered in Europe but it's unknown whether they will be available in the United States.

All the engines have fuel-saving stop-start systems and can be paired with a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission or a new six-speed manual transmission.

The new vehicles will come standard with many of the safety features Mercedes has on its larger cars, including adaptive cruise control, traction control and the Pre-Safe safety system that adjusts seat belts and head restraints when the car senses an impending collision.

F cell: An electric fuel cell version of the current five-door B class is being leased to drivers in Southern California in limited numbers for three years. The vehicle has a range of 240 miles.

C class: A midcycle freshening gives the C class the first four-cylinder engine Mercedes has offered since the 2005 model year. The range also has a two-door coupe for the first time since Mercedes entered the compact segment in the United States with the 1984 190E.

The new generation due in 2014 or 2015 will get more variants, including a convertible. A hybrid and 50-state clean diesel are expected. The redesigned sedan will be built in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the U.S. market.

E class: The E350 coupe and cabriolet got the new 3.5-liter V6 engine in July. This month, the E550 coupe and cabriolet get a new 4.6-liter V8 engine that makes 420 hp. The E550 also gets electromechanical steering.

The range will get a freshening in 2013.

CL: The large coupe is scheduled for a redesign in 2013 when Mercedes probably will change the name to the S-class coupe.

CLS: The restyled and re-engineered four-door coupelike sedan went on sale in June. The range-topping CLS550 has a new direct-injection, 4.6-liter biturbo V8 that makes 402 hp. It also has a revised seven-speed automatic transmission and is available with all-wheel drive.

The CLS63 AMG has a new direct-injection 5.5-liter biturbo AMG V8 that generates 518 hp. It also has stop-start technology.

S class: In August, the S550 got the new 4.8-liter direct injection V8 engine that makes 429 hp.

A redesigned S class comes to the United States in 2013. It is expected to be slightly longer than the current model. The lineup will include a full hybrid.

The redesigned S class may get a four-door convertible similar to the Ocean Drive concept Mercedes debuted in 2007.

SLK: A redesigned SLK hardtop convertible with styling cues taken from the SLS AMG supercar went on sale this summer. It has a retractable hardtop that opens and closes within 20 seconds.

The SLK350 has a new direct-injection V6 engine that makes 302 hp and is combined with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder SLK250 with the new 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo engine goes on sale in early 2012.

SL: Mercedes' largest roadster will be redesigned next year.

SLS AMG: The sports car developed by AMG gets a roadster variant later this year with a power soft top that closes in 11 seconds while the car is traveling up to 30 mph.

The all-wheel-drive SLS E-Cell supercar is expected to go on sale in 2012. It has a 400-volt electric-drive system with four motors that produce a combined 526 hp and can travel more than 120 miles on a charge.

R class: Mercedes hasn't decided whether to make a second generation of this big crossover. Sales of the R classare slow despite last year's mild freshening.

GLK: A freshening of the GLKis expected in 2012 when a diesel variant could be added.

ML: The third generation of the SUV went on sale in September. The 2012 ML has new standard features such as a drowsiness detection system called Attention Assist plus high-tech options such as blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure assist that had been available only on more expensive Mercedes-Benz cars.

The first two models of the new-generation M class are the ML350 4Matic, which has a 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection, and the ML350 Bluetec 4Matic diesel, with a 3.0-liter six. V8 models arrive next year. A hybrid variant also is likely.

A coupe version called the MLC that would compete with BMW's X6 is expected as early as 2015.

GL: The full-sized GL SUV will be redesigned in 2012.

G class: The iconic, military-style vehicle continues for an unspecified period with the V8-powered G550 and the supercharged G55 AMG that makes 500 hp.

Sprinter: No changes are expected for the Sprintercommercial vehicle in the coming years.

Maybach: Daimler AG is in talks with Aston Martin on a potential cooperation agreement for the ultraluxury marque.

Daimler is still considering a number of options. The partnership with Aston Martin would produce a second-generation Maybach. Aston Martin has designed four Maybach concepts based on the next-generation S class. Another option is turning the luxury nameplate into a subbrand of Mercedes-Benz. A third option is to kill the brand.

By Diana T. Kurylko- Automotive News