Mercedes-Benz is planning the future of its compacts
Success makes courageous. Mercedes is expanding its range of the A- and B-Class from five to eight models in the next generation. Whether the bill comes up depends on the skill of the chief designer.
The entry of Mercedes-Benz into the compact class almost 20 years ago was under no good star. She began to slump. At the end of 1997, the A-Class tipped during a dodge maneuver. A disaster. But the Mercedes mini helped the electronic anti-skid system ESP to the breakthrough.
Generation two ran better, but retained the status of the worthy minivan, which mainly bought older customers. In order to achieve at least some scale effects – the special four-cylinder engine fitted with its oblique mounting in no other Mercedes – the Stuttgart strategists placed the A-model the B-Class as well as the small delivery van Vaneo aside.
Only with the third generation from 2012 was a real reboot. New platform (MFA = Mercedes front-wheel drive architecture), new compatible four-cylinder engines, new model strategy, new design. Above all the A-class was not to be recognized.
Mercedes positions them directly against the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, with the aim of bringing sporting and younger customers to the brand. The same was true for the derivatives CLA and CLA Shooting Brake (Kombi) as well as the Crossover GLA, which many call the “better A-Class” due to its higher functionality.
Wonderful homage of the Coen brothers to “Easy Rider”
The paragraphs show how well the Stuttgart series with their compact series are. Since 2012, more than two million units have been rolled out of the tapes. In 2016 alone, it was around 600,000. That is almost a third of the total passenger car production of the Mercedes-Benz brand.
And as far as the age of the customers is concerned, one is highly satisfied in Stuttgart. “We were able to cut the average of 13.5 years in Western Europe,” said Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Autoesse in Detroit, “the A-Class has a large share of the rejuvenation of our brand.”
For many buyers, the compact models form the entry into the brand with the star. For example, the CLA in the US has reached a conquest rate of more than 70 percent.
For the next MFA generation, Mercedes plans the number of three other derivatives, thus increasing to eight. But what was missing so far? After all, Mercedes does not want to occupy a niche in the niche, but has a certain sales volume in mind.
Gorden Wagener needs to draw good A-Class sedan
Leaded, but not yet officially confirmed, is as number six the GLB, an SUV above the GLA with optionally five or seven seats. This model is based on the icon G-Class.
Number seven will be a four-door sedan. Already the salespeople at Mercedes the model Audi A3 has been a thorn in the eye. May in this class steep-hill models be preferred, in many other countries it is exactly the opposite.
Since the market launch in the late summer of 2013, the Ingolstadt colleagues have sold more than 383,000 units of the A3 saloon worldwide. In 2016, the mix share of the limousine in the A3 total sales was 38 percent.
This is something you will not want to miss in Stuttgart. A prerequisite, however, is that Designchef Gorden Wagener has an Audi A-Class sedan at least as good as Audi has done. The very good proportions of the A3 sedan have contributed significantly to sales success.
Nebulous remains number eight. It is certain, the actual A-Class (Hatch) will not be as a three-door, consequently also not as a convertible. Anyway, according to statement of development board Ola Källenius wants to separate in the next generation of up to two open cars.
The Roadster SLC (formerly SLK) would be at the disposal. It is conceivable that this model will not be re-applied to the C-Class rear-wheel drive platform (MRA), but to the architecture A-Class. And number eight would not be a roadster any more, but a sporty and compact coupé in the style of the Audi TT. The latter is based on the MQB of the A3.
With an annual sales of more than 30,000 units, a small A-Class coupe (name perhaps SLA) could be expected, as you can see from the figures from Ingolstadt. Audi sold a total of 31,200 TT in 2016. Only 20 percent of these were roadster.
The next MFA generation will be launched in 2018. The A-Class will be much more functional and offer more space. The luggage compartment is given a wider access, possible by a tailgate, which now carries part of the lighting. Split rear lights were too expensive for the controllers.
Next B-Class is also available as a plug-in hybrid
Now the designers have prevailed. Externally, the four-door A-Class is less prominent than today. Nevertheless, it should continue to be sporty. As a small optical trick, Mercedes sets the star in the grill lower and makes the headlights narrower.
The Stuttgart engineers are currently developing a small four-cylinder petrol engine (1.2 to 1.4 liters displacement), internally known as M 282, for the MFA platform. The two-wire M-260 is already finished.
In the new four-cylinder Ottomotor, the Swabians used a so-called belt-starter-generator in the course of electrification. The up to ten kilowatt strong RSG can boost as well as recuperate and should help to reduce consumption by about ten percent.