The car that upset the SUV segment – the BMW X6 – could have been beaten to market by a Mercedes-Benz coupe-style SUV way back before the Bavarian brand’s controversial crossover vehicle launched in 2008.
“Of course at the very beginning we were also looking into that kind of vehicle, and thinking can it really be successful at the very beginning,” he said.
“Yeah we were also looking into that, and then made the decision to be focusing on the A-Class portfolio which we expanded,” he said, claiming that it was decided to expand the brand from the lower end of the market upwards.
“It’s also for economic reasons – I mean, if you had to decide are you going to put your investments into the whole wide range of the A-Class portfolio? Or are you investing into more niches?” he posited.
“And we said if we looked at our structure, in terms of the pyramid of the portfolio, we just had a very narrow base with the old A- and B-Class…
“As a company you have to pick your choices in terms of where are you investing. And so for us it was important to expand the A-Class portfolio with the A-Class, GLA, B-Class, CLA and also now the [CLA] Shooting Brake.
“We had our focus in the past to expand the portfolio and I think we were very successful in doing so,” he said.
Kurz indicated that the launch of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe comes at a time when the brand has the opportunity and the need to expand its SUV product offering, and by doing so from a pre-existing model (the GLE is a heavily updated version of the existing ML-Class) helps in that regard.
“Since it’s a derivative of the ML-Class it took us about three to four years to come up with that vehicle,” he said of the new GLE Coupe. “And so the decision, if you calculate backwards, was taken three to four years in the past for us.”
But Kurz indicated that while the brand may be seen as following the path of the BMW X6 (see more on this from our previous story with design chief Gorden Wagener) there are brands that are now replicating Benz’s strategy with its bolstered small car line-up.
“Now we are coming with the model which is the SUV coupe, and other manufacturers are coming with vehicles that look similar to the B-Class,” he said, a direct reference to BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer.