No one’s really sure what the B-Class is, so Mercedes-Benz seems ready to add a crossover version to lure utility-obsessed buyers.
The automaker recently registered the GLB name, implying a sporty crossover based on the unpopular front-wheel-drive B-class people hauler — a model so confused, it sells more in Canada than it does in the United States.
The new Mercedes B-Class has been extensively discussed here, it was shown at the Shanghai Auto Show, where it found itself upstaged by the requisite Chinese copy. Slowly, it is time to show the production model. Which will happen at the Frankfurt Auto Show. After the rest of the world has seen the B-Class, now Germany can too.
Automotive News Digital Edition [sub] reports that Mercedes-Benz is holding consumer clinics in the US, gathering input ahead of its launch of the first front-drive Mercedes models to be sold in the US. Sales of the B-Class-based front-drive models won’t being until “after 2011,” and Mercedes admits that a design freeze has not yet taken place. Still, one thing is certain: prospective customers are not being shown an MPV-like hatchback along the lines of the current B-Class that’s sold in Europe and Canada because of dealer concerns. Says MB-USA development boss Bernhard Glaser:
[Dealers] were concerned about the previous generation because it did stand out and that is kind of a whole different brand sell that you have to try and jump over. This will be seamless.
Ever get the feeling that the car game is dealing with some malaise? Dieter Zetsche sure seems to. “The definition of luxury will be somewhat different,” Doctor Z tells the Wall Street Journal. “It will be fewer CO2 emissions and more modesty in appearance.” And this from the company that sells cars on the back of a brand dripping with immodesty and ostentation. But no matter, the decision has been made: Zetsche wants to chase what the WSJ terms “Americans’ growing interest in downsized models that offer upscale features and finishes.” Wait, growing interest? The MINI sells decently, but the A3 (fewer than 3k units sold year-to-date) and 1 Series (fewer than 10k units year-to-date) are hardly setting the luxury segment on fire. Damn the torpedoes, people want green modesty, and Zetsche’s going to give it to them with four compact models planned for the US sometime after 2011.
For sure, there will be another B-class, which will be pretty similar, address the same customer as the B-class today. The three other body styles clearly intend to target additional and different segments from the one that we can target today, including gender barriers.
Smaller, greener and more identity-politics-y. That sounds like just what the luxury market has been begging for! And we haven’t even started in on the cost-cutting yet.