After seeing sales of its flagship and most profitable model sink, Mercedes-Benz is aiming at producing more affordable and fuel-efficient cars. One of the new cars is a front-wheel-drive convertible based on the Vision SLA shown at the 2000 Detroit auto show.
The proposed SLA would ride on the next generation Mercedes-Benz A-class platform. That platform itself will abandon the current sandwich type construction in favor of a more conventional floorpan. The A-class was to be the underpinnings for the abandoned Smart ForFour.
With the next generation platform Mercedes management will decide about possibly resurrecting the Smart ForFour project as well. If this happens, the SLA may be badged as a Smart and replace the current Smart Passion Cabriolet. If the car is to be badged as a Mercedes, it would slot under the current SLK.
To date, Mercedes has already spent $759 million on the existing A-class plant as an additional $1 billion on building another A-class plant. The two plants together should be able to produce up to 500,000 cars per year. This investment adds to the suspicion Mercedes-Benz may be bringing the A and B-classes to the U.S. as 2011 models. There were previous plans to bring the two classes Stateside in 2007, but those were canceled due to unfavorable exchange rates.