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by Jez Spinks

Mercedes-Benz believes it is set for a significant period of growth in Australia with its new range of compact vehicles.

The German car maker has this week staged the international launch of the CLA four-door coupe (main picture), the third model after the B-Class MPV and A-Class hatchback to be spun off Mercedes’ new MFA modular small-car architecture.

A baby SUV called the GLA will follow in 2014 as the other confirmed compact model, while the company this week admitted a downsized cabriolet model and hybrid variants could also go into production as it aggressively targets young buyers.

“The brand is going through a growth period, and the new vehicles coming will work in our market,” says Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman Jerry Stamoulis.

“With GLA [baby SUV], GLK [a mid-sized SUV], CLA and A-Class (below), a full year of production would see significant growth.

“We need to see what the market does, but we have the cars in place in the next two years to take it any way the market swings.”

Mercedes-Benz Australia sold 22,397 vehicles in 2012 including commercial vehicles, and its expanded range of compact models could comfortably see it surpass 25,000 units by 2014.

The number of vehicles produced on the compact modular platform will reach 400,000 per year, according to the company.

The Mercedes-Benz CLA is essentially a junior version of the CLS that started the four-door ‘coupe’ trend in 2004. Due locally in late 2013, it’s based on the A-Class hatch that has recently launched locally and starts at $35,600.

The CLA is expected to start from about $50,000, positioning it below the company’s volume-selling C-Class range that begins at $58,600.

The pricing of the A-Class and CLA pitch the models directly against high-end mainstream hatchbacks and mid-sized sedans respectively.

Mercedes, however, says it is not deliberating targeting models such as the Golf with the A-Class, and denies its downsizing strategy won’t dumb down the brand.

“Targeting is a strong word,” says Stamoulis. “It’s about getting people into the brand at an earlier stage in their lives. If you get people into cars earlier, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the car and understand the brand’s philosophy and continue to buy Mercedes-Benzes.

“If you go back 30 years ago when the Mercedes 190 came out, people called it the ‘baby Benz’ and said it was going to devalue the brand, but they were wrong.

“This could be history repeating.”

Mercedes-Benz expects the C-Class (below) to remain its biggest-selling model despite the CLA that is more affordable and is actually slightly longer before a larger all-new C-Class arrives in 2014.

The company believes there will be minimal cannibalisation of C-Class sales as a result of the CLA.

“The CLA is different to C-Class,” says Stamoulis. “A C-Class buyer might not find practicality in the CLA but the CLA is more practical than a C-Class Coupe.

“If you want to stand out from the crowd, and have the latest technology as well as good fuel efficiency… From a brand that’s been around the longest, there are a few boxes ticked there.

“We need to keep reinventing ourselves.”

Mercedes head of development for compact cars, Hansjorg Schinke, said at the CLA launch that a cabriolet based on the ‘MFA’ front-drive/all-wheel-drive platform “could be an opportunity”.

He also confirmed the platform was “package protected” for hybrid systems.

  • Martin

    And when they become so popular that every double income family has one, they can drive through poorer areas to make themselves feel good. I’m all for these smaller more affordable Benzes but it is starting to look like they are willing to sacrifice how special it is to own a luxury car for higher production volumes and profit.

    • JJ

      Yeah that’s insane. What company would try to increase profits!?


      • F1orce

        They have no pride

        Typical German, all about the profits..

        • Jax

          Typical F1…all about racism and stupidity.

      • Hung Low

        Short term profits traded in for decades of heritage, sounds all good to me JJ.?

  • homous

    Was it necessary to pad out the last two Mercedes articles.

    you’ve produced two articles with weak content.

    you should’ve just combined them and achieved medium level content.

  • $29896495

    They want more sales here. They should go back to building them here. Take them back to the main stream like they are in Germany, where they ARE NOT luxury. Which begs the question, what makes a luxury car, and What justifies the price of a car as luxury when it is little more than a German Commodore?

    • F1orce

      Thats’s right..

    • Resident

      Build them here? That is unrealistic.

      What makes them Luxury here? Well, the fact that they are better than any locally manufactured product for starters.

      • $29896495

        You may not know but they were built here by AMI who also did toyota and Rambler. I believe they are built in SA, why not here. 

        That’s beside the point, they aren’t any better than the local product. They are taxis pure and simple, just different looks and a higher price, that’s what your luxury is Cost over style.

        • Resident

          Well, South Africa has different costs compared with here. It is why we saw the demise of many locally manufactured cars – the Pulsar, Corolla, Magna, 380 etc.

          I doubt Mercedes-Benz would EVER invest that sort of money required to set up a manufacturing plant for our local (read: Small) market.

          I get that they are used as Taxis in Europe (in lesser models not available here). But my point is – if you have been in or driven a Mercedes-Benz you would know that they aren’t to be compared with any product from Holden or Ford.

    • KH

      are you saying that badges aside, an E-Class and a Commodore are equals

    • Kanen

      years ago working for MB, the RHD market for MB represented just 2% of total sales so you can appreciate where their business priorities lay. Complicating this, Australia’s unique ADR rules certainly doesn’t help the business case to supply to this small market  

      • $29896495

        I think you unique ADRs is a no longer relevant. We are in line with everyone else, who are now stricter than us. All they have to do is crash test a car and sow the results, as well as pollution which again is stricter in the EU and US. RHD is not only AUS but the UK, SA, NZ, Japan, India, Most of Asia and the Sth Pacific. That’s more than 2%. As I stated before in here some where they used to build Mercs here for this country and export.

  • Rocket

    This move into the lower price brackets will only tarnish one of the great brands IMO. Why get into high volume low margin production when they do so well in the premium market?

    • Martin

      My thoughts exactly (but better articulated – thank you)

    • Resident

      Increase market share and profits.

      They’ve already indicated that the 190E didn’t tarnish their brand. And neither has the A-Class.

      Times are changing. People are downsizing. Why did Porsche start the Boxster, Cayman, Cayenne and Panamera craze? So that they could continue to earn profits which allows them extra spending to continue developing the 911.

  • Guestovovic


    • Guestovovic

      i a gree

      • Guestovovic

        yeah, the a-class is really something. although benz is pretty much shamelessly copying the A3 and 1 series’ standard hatch formula, and they ditched the quirky, failed approach taken by the previous a-class, the a-class is quite a nice attempt.