The seemingly never-ending SUV product expansion for Mercedes-Benz appears to have almost met its end point – for the time being.
Ola Källenius, member of the board of management of Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz Cars marketing and sales, said there aren’t many more gaps to fill in the brand’s mainstream SUV ranks at this point in time.
“Now we have from GLS at the top all the way down to the GLA and also plugging the final holes with things like the GLC Coupe, that very broad SUV portfolio works here in North America, which you would expect, it works in Europe, which you might not expect, and it certainly works in Asia,” he said.
Källenius suggested that while the growth in SUVs has been incredible to this point, it isn’t set to stop anytime soon.
“I expect it to continue. If I think back almost 20 years ago when we came with the first luxury SUV with the M-Class – that was one vehicle and we thought that was a big venture, going in to a market where we hadn’t been before,” Källenius said.
When asked to clarify what he meant by filling the final holes, Källenius made it clear that he was talking about the current-generation of models – but the future could be different.
“In this generation of that platform, yes, but rest assured our engineers will not run out of ideas,” he said.
When asked to expand on that thought, Källenius made it clear that there are some niches still to be filled, but also some bigger potential model lines with more widespread appeal.
“I think these kind of SUV coupes – sports car and SUV blended into one – is an example that you can have niches that are also very successful,” he said.
“People are looking for maybe a more individualistic choice, they like sporty driving but still want to have some utility,” Källenius said.
“They want to drive something that not everybody drives, so there is some opportunity there and I think we can still find another area or two in the SUV portfolio going from top to bottom where we can have very decent form.”
Källenius also told CarAdvice at the show that the brand will likely expand the Mercedes-Maybach line to include an SUV, which will add some very high-end appeal.
As for more affordable models, there will not be a crossover version of the company’s C-Class wagon, as some reports had suggested previously.
Mercedes-Benz was said to be pondering an Audi A4 Allroad style version of the C-Class wagon, but Michael Kelz – the man responsible for the architecture that underpins Mercedes-Benz’s mid- and large-size passenger cars and SUVs – said that’s not the case.
“That’s not planned,” Kelz said. “The right basis for a car like that is really the GLC, so the off-road-based production car. And the difference between the C-Class and the GLC is body wise, and from the axles and so on [the difference] is very big. In the end there is no [shared] parts at all.
“The GLC and C-Class mainly share the electrical and interior stuff you can see, but the elements that make [the GLC] an SUV are completely different,” he said.
“You never know – never say never – but in the end it’s not on the plan. I think the [GLC] is the clear way and the compromise is very small.”