Mercedes-Benz reveals lower-priced sporty model
Jan 13, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept with hints of its highly anticipated CLA-class sedan Sunday night at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.
When it goes on sale this fall the CLA-class will be Mercedes-Benz's entry-level model aimed at younger buyers. It will be priced below the popular compact C-class with a starting price of about $30,000, about $5,000 less than the starting price for the C-class.
"We are going to offer people a whole new way to enter the Mercedes family," said Joachim Schmidt, head of sales and marketing for Mercedes. "It will be much more attainable...and win over customers who never thought they could consider a Mercedes."
Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG, said the CLA-class is built on an new platform and will be the basis for five new models for the brand, including a small crossover. Not all of those models will come to the U.S.
Mercedes also said it has developed a new all-wheel drive system for front-wheel drive cars that will debut on the CLA-class sedan and will be rolled out globally.
"The car is tremendous," said Roger Penske, chairman and CEO of Penske Automotive Group, who was among several hundred people who watched the unveiling of the car Sunday.
Penske predicted it will be a hot seller and will compete effectively with a growing number of small luxury cars and crossovers.
Increasingly, luxury automakers are introducing smaller, sporty cars and crossovers with price-tags between $30,000 and $40,000.
On Monday, Lincoln will unveil the compact MKC compact crossover at the Detroit auto show, Cadillac launched its compact ATS sedan last year and BMW launched its subcompact X1 crossover last year.
Larry Dominique, president of TrueCar.com, said the percentage of high-end luxury sales is remaining steady. Most of the growth among luxury brands is coming from the lower end of the market. But competition with mainstream brands is getting more tougher because the quality and available technology in those brands continues to improve.
"You are going to see a greater number of luxury models, but I am not sure that luxury is going to capture a larger share of the overall market," Dominique said.
Those interested in the Mercedes CLA class should look closely at the photos from Sunday's invitation-only event because the car will not be shown at the 2013 North American International Auto Show, which begins Monday.
According to Mercedes, the next time the CLA will be shown will be at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
Success in the U.S. market is more important than ever for both Mercedes-Benz and BMW with Europe's recession and the automotive industry there struggling to deal with five years straight of declining industry sales.
In 2012, BMW outsold Mercedes-Benz for the second year in a row even as sales of the Mercedes-Benz brand increased 13%.
BMW finished off the year with a strong December and boosted its sales for the year to a total of 281,460 cars and crossovers in the U.S. compared with 274,134 for the Mercedes-Benz brand.
"BMW closed out 2012 by throwing haymakers and it connected on enough of them to hold on to its luxury sales crown," Jessica Caldwell, an analyst for Edmunds.com said earlier this month.
Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or email@example.com
Free Press Reporter Alisa Priddle contributed to this report
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