MERCEDES-BENZ has confirmed it will build a new compact SUV based on the versatile MFA platform, which underpins the new A-Class and soon to be launched B-Class. The modular front-wheel-drive platform will enable the German manufacturer to keep costs in check and position the new model to compete with the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3.
At this week’s start of production of the latest A Class at Mercedes’ plant in Rastatt, Germany, the automaker revealed in a statement that its new generation of compact cars will span five different models, including the A Class, B Class, a new coupé and a crossover.
CEO Dieter Zetsche said at a press conference at the plant: “The cars will be our sharpest weapons in the drive for industry leadership.”
The new model is expected to be called the GLA, based on Mercedes philosophy –– wherein GL stands for SUV and the A denoting its small size. The model is to be production-ready before 2014.
However, the car might debut in concept form at one of the more significant motor shows, early next year. Furthermore, Mercedes’ comments that the new vehicles will be “sporty and emotive” bodes well for the possibility of a compact roadster.
The GLA will get both petrol and diesel options, powering the front wheels, while a more powerful all-wheel-drive version might also be rolled-out to compete with the Q3 Quattro and X1 xDrive. The new model will also be the first crossover to get sleek and aggressive new Mercedes styling, seen in their new range of cars like the CLC and the new A-Class.
To compete against the Range Rover Evoque, expect this GLA to be a bit more sporting in appearance than the average crossover, although engines are likely to be pulled from current A and B class offerings.
The compact crossover is one of the missing links in the Mercedes range and also one of the important products for the company’s 2020 growth strategy.
This segment has seen significant growth in recent past and Mercedes has been losing numbers to its German rivals due to a dearth of the appropriate product.
Mercedes-Benz ranks third behind BMW and Audi in worldwide luxury-car sales. Combined deliveries of the A and B-Class models last year totalled 192 000 vehicles, a 14% drop from 2010 figures, versus a 20% sales gain for the C- Class sedan and its variants to 412 000 cars.
The company is registering “globally good demand” for its model range, Zetsche said. Mercedes-Benz wants 50% of A-Class buyers to be new to the brand, he said, reiterating a strategy outlined in April.
Zetsche aims to beat BMW in sales by 2020 and reclaim the luxury-car lead that Daimler lost in 2005.