Mercedes-Benz is looking at selling a version of its next-generation small, front-wheel-drive B-Class here beginning around 2011. In order to design a small car that will sell well in the States, the German automaker is apparently hard at work asking U.S. customers for their design input.
“The first clinics have been done in the U.S. market,” Bernhard Glaser, general manager of product development at Mercedes-Benz USA, told Automotive News. “We are still at a very early stage. The design freeze has not taken place.”
Mercedes is asking for input on three different model variants under consideration: a crossover, a sedan, and a coupe. All three are based on the next-generation B-Class platform and would be positioned below the C-Class as Mercedes’ entry-level model. Glaser said that the design ideas shown were full-size clay models. Joachim Schmidt, M-B marketing chief, said earlier that there are going to be at least four versions of the B-Class, at least two of which will make it to the States.
The customer clinic is taking place because U.S. dealers don’t want the four-door hatchback version of the B-Class currently sold elsewhere, including Canada. The dealers say the hatchback does not fit Mercedes’ luxury image in the U.S.
“They were concerned about the previous generation because it did stand out, and that is kind of a whole different brand that you have to try and jump over,” Geoff Day, a Mercedes-Benz U.S. spokesman, said. ”This will be seamless.”
According to Tommy Baker, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealer council, all three design proposals have a “cutting edge” look. Because of the modifications to the vehicle and the associations with the B-Class moniker, Mercedes is contemplating selling the vehicle under a different name in the U.S. The new entry-level vehicle is expected to go on sale around 2011.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)