The small premium segment is poised for huge growth here in the United States, and it has already been an important segment for manufacturers around the globe. Mercedes-Benz has been a player in the European small multi-purpose vehicle market for years with its A and B-Class models.
The two were unusual for Mercedes given their small size, pricing and front-wheel drive platform. The A and B-Class models are currently the only front-wheel drive vehicles produced by Mercedes. They have never been introduced in the U.S, leaving the U.S-lineup rear-wheel drive only.
However, with BMW going further downmarket than the 1-Series with a new front-wheel drive model, the paradigm is shifting. Consumers are embracing smaller vehicles and there is an effort to capture younger buyers looking for something smaller. As such, according to Automotive News Europe, Mercedes is hatching plans for a whole new range of front-wheel drive variants. That doesn’t mean the A and B-Class are coming here though – they aren’t planned to make an appearance, once again.
Instead, there will be front-wheel drive models more geared for the U.S. They will all be based on the Mercedes Front-wheel drive Architecture (MFA). The platform could spawn up to five variants and be a key part of Mercedes growth around the world. Models being considered to include a coupe, described as a “mini CLS” as well as a rival to the BMW X1.
It isn’t clear whether the “mini CLS” will be a coupe in the traditional sense or a four-door coupe in the vein of the CLS. It is likeliest to be a four-door coupe, as that is a proposition that would probably result in higher sales.
The coupe is set to debut in summer 2013, the first MFA model to debut in the U.S. The X1 rival will follow a year after, with both models going on sale in European markets three to five months before the U.S. Mercedes is keen to get an X1 competitor out the door as the X1 is currently tearing up the sales charts. We’re eager to see how the new vehicles will be positioned.
Things are getting trickier as luxury manufacturers are blurring lines, creeping further and further downmarket. Aso, a critical differentiator between luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes here in the U.S has been rear-wheel drive, but that difference is disappearing.