By on January 30, 2018

A Class Concept Mercedes, Image: Daimler AG

Taking a page from its own playbook, the launch of the littlest Mercedes-Benz sedan will mirror the steps taken by the brand when it foisted the CLA onto the American market in 2013.

According to the company, roughly three-quarters of early CLA buyers were people who had never before owned a Mercedes. The company thinks, likely correctly, it’ll be able to duplicate that feat when the A-Class sedan goes on sale late this year.

“We want to duplicate the success we had with the CLA, meaning tremendous customer demand … and attracting new customers to the brand,” Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler said to Automotive News during an interview with that publication at the Detroit show in January. Those CLA buyers “came from pretty much everywhere. They were substantially younger.”

We’ve already seen the interior, with official pictures surfacing back in November. Surely the photos are of a top-tier trim, as the gauges and infotainment are of the Jumbotron variety, but a lot of the hard points will carry over to the potential sub-$30,000 model. That trio of air vents would look at home in an S-Class.

It’s reported that the A-Class will also be the debut of the new “Mercedes-Benz User Experience” media system, incorporating artificial intelligence features, augmented reality nav, and voice control launched by saying, “Hey Mercedes.” The car’s intended demographic already interact with various devices via voice – Siri, Amazon Echo – so the three-pointed star is banking that familiarity will make bank with the target market.

The A-Class hatch will be shown first, set to appear on February 2nd at an event in Amsterdam. Reports have only the sedan version of the A coming stateside, riding atop the second-generation MFA platform found underneath the CLA and GLA. This is likely a sensible decision, as most customers in this country will not buy hatchbacks unless they are marketed as a crossover. Those with long memories will recall BMW’s brief foray into the entry-level hatch business with its 318i in the mid-‘90s, which had a very short shelf life.

Mercedes has been mum about sticker prices, but it’s a safe bet the A-Class will set an opening bid below the CLA, which currently starts at $32,700 in America. If Merc prices the base A below $30,000, even by a single buck, it would open up the brand to shoppers who likely would not have even considered setting foot in a Benz showroom.

As for brand dilution, well, that’s a topic for a whole ‘nuther post.

[Image: Daimler AG]

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29 Comments on “CLA, Redux? Mercedes-Benz Has a Strategy for Its A-Class Sedan...”

  • avatar

    Can’t wait to see more $29,999 (before destination) “authentic Mercedes-Benz” cars going around with halogen headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike N.

      LOL I own a 2007 E350 with the most common option package (P1), and it came with halogens. Then again, at least Mercedes gives you Apple CarPlay for “free” without forcing you to pay $2k for nav, while BMW is going from a one-time $300 fee on top of forcing you to buy nav to nickel and diming you with a $80/yr subscription.

      • 0 avatar

        What the reliability on your E350 been like? I’ve seen CPO 2016 E350s with low mileage go for $30k

        • 0 avatar

          The 2014 CPO E-Class my partner drives is as rattly as my Dart.

          • 0 avatar

            Phantom edit: not just halogen lights, but reflector housings. Not having projector lenses and not having cool white color temp. bulbs screams BASE MODEL more than the light-up Mercedes badge screams tacky, especially when *every* Corolla sold comes with both as standard equipment. Same goes for BMW and Audi who play the same game.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Actually, the subscription is going to replace the fee.

        The thing that kills me about Mercedes-Benz is possibly dropping $85K on a GLS-Class and still having to pull the key out for the ignition.

  • avatar

    We can only hope that the next CLA is better-executed than the current one. I can handle FWD compact Mercedes sedans with a four-banger. I can’t handle FWD compact Mercedes sedans whose interiors are outclassed by a Golf.

    Man, is that thing cheaped-out.

  • avatar

    I know Mercedes is perceived differently in different markets where Mercedes taxis or delivery vans are common; but man, those CLAs and the B-series really cheapen them for me. I recall looking at the B-series a few years ago and thinking you’d have to be a special brand of crazy to buy one at(then) CAD$36,000 over a Mazda-3 or Ford Focus.

    • 0 avatar

      They are comfortable and not particularly sporty, unlike the Mazda 3, which is sporty but not particularly comfortable. They offer more legroom than a C-Klasse and are on par with an E-Klasse, if not better. They are roomy and practical and have a respectable boot size.

      But the B-Klasse makes sense for markets where space is at a premium (Europe, Asia ans so forth). Here our parking and garage spaces are small. Some apartment/home garages come with parking spaces in which you cannot park a C-Klasse or BMW 3er size car. So people who live in such conditions are essentially forced to buy a car which can fit into their spot.

      I live on the outskirts of Munich and have garage space for my two cars which are a 2007 Mercedes GL320 CDI 4Matic and my beater city car, a disposable high mileage 1995 Renault Twingo. I use the Renault to drive into the city and park it on my work parking space. My GL would not fit on that spot.

      Mercedes should not be selling the B-Klasse in Canada as the car is unnecessary for that market and misunderstood.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    This sounds word for word like the lead up to the CLA. Will this new car race above $30k in two years like the CLA did?

    That said, this car would interest me more than the CLA assuming it’s actually small. The CLA seems like bit of a tweener. If this is truly compact, it has potential to be a fun little car.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, that. didn’t the CLA famously launch starting at $29,990? Inflation at work.

      That said, do we know if they have kept the weight under control?
      Could the inevitable AMG version be a pocket-rocket?

    • 0 avatar

      Just think of it as a Honda Civic with more bling and cost but less reliability. I’m not sure that’s a winning combination, though.

  • avatar

    This is just going to replace the CLA as the default Car2Go car, and that’s what I’ll see every time I see one, even a privately owned one.

    Benz and BMW using their “real” products for Car2Go and ReachNow, in place of Smart and Mini, is cheapening the brands more than anything else they’ve done recently. If there’s one thing a “luxury” brand shouldn’t do it’s use stripper cars as rental-fleet specials.

  • avatar

    “According to the company, roughly three-quarters of early CLA buyers were people who had never before owned a Mercedes. The company thinks, likely correctly, it’ll be able to duplicate that feat when the A-Class sedan goes on sale late this year.”

    I know quite a few owners of Mercedes-Benz’ more traditional offerings in the US. They already worry about the sorts of people they see in other Mercedes-Benz automobiles. How many CLAs make up for the loss of a multiple E and SL buyer?

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Considering how ghastly CLA was, I just have to wonder if any of those new customers swore off dealing with Mercedes-Benz ever again. Remember what the Americanized Passat did for VW. They were selling so well until the word got out on the street.

  • avatar

    Mercedes would be wise to export every lease return so as to limit the amount of CLAs which break in some critical way (word of mouth) or become ghetto fabulousized.

  • avatar

    “Those with long memories will recall BMW’s brief foray into the entry-level hatch business with its 318i in the mid-‘90s, which had a very short shelf life.”

    Those with more accurate memories will note that it was called the 318Ti (not 318i), and that Mercedes also sold a hatchback more recently than BMW did the 318Ti, which would seem to be more relevant here. I posted a link to one of them in Jack’s article’s comment section today. It was from the 2000s, the 318Ti was long gone by then.

    • 0 avatar

      And yet, I really wanted a 318ti. It was simple and fun (and a hatch). But being a young college graduate at the time precluded the purchase. In Boston Green, with the sunroof and manual transmission, it was an honest little car. Not that the American market thought so.

  • avatar

    I’ll stack up my Audi S3 against any CLA or BMW derivatives at the entry level. I have leather, backup camera, BLIS, adaptive CC, emergency braking and it’s a 2016. The MB is overpriced cheapness. The1/2 series sell sportiness most buyers will never experience. Both Benz & BMW lost their way. I’ve owned several of each and still have a 2006 CLS in the garage, a truly beautiful luxury car. Fortunately, Audi is still a distant 3rd in the US and they are still trying to accede to the “throne”. And that’s makes them better… ain’t resting on any laurels.

  • avatar

    I suspected that most CLA buyers are young professionals and have never owned a Mercedes before. Their expectations are different. I do not see a problem here.

    In Germany these smaller Mercedes cars are predominantly bought by younger first-time Mercedes buyers or elderly long-time Mercedes customers who are giving up E-Klasse or S-Klasse ownership for something smaller. Yes, you read that correctly. Or they keep their large Mercedes and buy a small Mercedes as a second [city] car. Our city conditions are different from North American conditions and require the use of smaller cars.

  • avatar

    I’m a bit lost. Is the A-Class above the CLA, since it has a regular single-letter class designation? It sounds like it’s the exact same base price as a CLA.

  • avatar

    According to the company, roughly three-quarters of early CLA buyers were people who had never before owned a Mercedes.

    ANNNND they still don’t.

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