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Mercedes A-class set to return

Casualty: The current A-class was cut from the Australian Mercedes team in early 2010.

Culled A-class to rejoin the Australian line-up with next-generation model in 2013

29 Nov 2010

THE Mercedes-Benz A-class will return to Australia when the next generation model is introduced in 2013.

M-B Australia dumped the revolutionary tall small car from its local line up early this year because it was too close in concept to the slightly larger B-class.

“We made a very bold decision to discontinue A-class because we thought it was confusing the market in some way,” said Mercedes-Benz Australia managing director Horst von Sanden this week.

“We focused on B-class with a bit of repositioning and a product upgrade (and) this strategy has really worked for us. The figures we are achieving with B-class only are clearly better than what we had achieved with A and B combined.”

VFACTS figures show Mercedes sold 1568 B-class models to the end of October compared to 639 B-class and 400 A-class models during the same period last year.

Nevertheless, the A-class and B-class will be sold alongside each other again, thanks to a plan to further separate the two models.

“Without giving away the launch strategy, there is a very interesting differentiation between A and B in the future,” said Mr von Sanden.

“We have looked at the target they want to address, and produce the B-class for a specific target audience and the A-class for a specific audience. We will have both.”

4 center imageLeft: Current Mercedes-Benz A-class. Below: Current Mercedes-Benz B-class.

GoAuto understands the next generation A-class will be closer in concept to a traditional small hatch than the current model.

The next-generation B-class will be introduced next year and we expect it will continue with the tall layout of the existing car.

Mr von Sanden said the expectations of Mercedes “were not quite fulfilled” by the A-class and B-class as they didn’t attract as many young people as anticipated.

“We wanted to build this very young car, but quite the opposite happened,” he said.

Mr von Sanden hinted that a more traditional A-class could be more of a hit with younger buyers.

Mercedes is gearing up for a busy first six months of 2011, with the S63 AMG and S350 Bluetec to be rolled out early, along with the rugged G-class wagon off-roader that is also being sold to the Australian Defence Force.

Joining them closer to the middle of next year will be the new CLS63 AMG, C-class coupe, new-generation SLK convertible and a GL450 with a twin-turbo V8 diesel.

Mercedes Australia will also finally introduce a Bluetec model, the S350 Bluetec, several years after it went on sale overseas.

This model uses AdBlue, a urea-based additive that helps trigger a chemical reaction in a catalyst that reduces NOx levels by up to 80 per cent. This technology is widely used in the truck industry, where is it is referred to as Sequential Catalytic Reduction, and has also been introduced in the Mazda CX-9 SUV in Australia.

Mr von Sanden said the delayed introduction of Bluetec models in Australia was caused by global rollout limitations.

“It was just a natural timing. We are not necessarily happy with it, but it is just one of those things. You can’t just introduce new technology around the world instantly with the push of a button.”

Mercedes-Benz sales are up 24 per cent to 18,016 to the end of October, compared to BMW with 15,016 and Audi with 11,403.

Mr von Sanden said Mercedes could achieve its best passenger car sales result this year, but is not expecting a similar increase next year. He said he would be happy for the brand to hold its position.

“We are pretty happy with our current position, especially given we are currently not even competing in some of the biggest segments, including compact SUV. I think we can be reasonably happy with our share and we will remain competitive.

“With these new models coming next year and beyond, I think we can cement our position in the marketplace.”

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