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Beijing show: Mercedes confirms coupe crossover

Major potential: The all-new Mercedes coupe-SUV is expected to reach production in the US later next year.

Benz confident ‘MLC-Class’ will succeed as Concept Coupe SUV heads to Beijing

10 Apr 2014

MERCEDES-BENZ is preparing to take on BMW’s X6 with a coupe-like luxury SUV model – expected to be called the ‘MLC’ – that will premiere in production-oriented concept guise at this month’s Beijing motor show.

Daimler AG chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars worldwide Dieter Zetsche revealed the plan, and the first image of the ‘Concept Coupe SUV’, at the German luxury car manufacturer’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Berlin overnight.

Dr Zetsche said the new model was the latest example of the company’s strategy to gain new customers for the Mercedes-Benz brand by entering new segments.

“Our efforts to strengthen our core business are not limited to existing model series,” he said.

“We see major potential for Mercedes-Benz in particular in this combination of a coupe and an SUV.

“After all, hardly any other auto-maker has as much experience with SUVs as we do. Our M-Class was the first vehicle of its kind when we launched it in 1997, which means we actually established the segment for premium off-road vehicles.

“Today the M-Class remains the world market leader and thus the number one premium SUV. Mercedes-Benz also dominates the market for coupes.

“I’ve already talked to you about the success of the CLA. Our CLS established the new segment for four-door coupes. The new generation of the CLS and the CLS Shooting Brake will be launched in October.

“And now we’re bringing the best of two worlds together with a sporty coupe that also offers typical Mercedes off-road capabilities. We’re confident it will be a success.”

Expect a full range of petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains, and AMG variants, to feature on the new MLC-Class, which is likely to be built alongside the closely related M-Class at Mercedes’ production plant in Alabama, in the United States.

No official production timeframe has been provided, but the first wave of MLC variants is expected to reach showrooms next year.

Dr Zetsche said that despite the fact that Mercedes-Benz was in the middle of the biggest product offensive in the three-pointed-star brand’s history, “we’re also far from finished”.

“Between now and 2020, we plan to introduce 12 completely new models without any predecessors,” he said.

“Moreover, because we are using only two architectures for most of our new vehicles – one for front-wheel drive and one for rear-wheel drive – we can develop and manufacture these numerous new models faster and more efficiently than ever before.

“This is yet another example of how we are strengthening our core business.”

It is significant that Daimler has chosen to unveil the new vehicle in China rather than the New York auto show, which opens a few days earlier.

The company has made clear its desire to improve its sales performance in the world’s biggest auto market, which is deemed crucial in its quest for global market leadership by the end of this decade.

Last year, Daimler implemented a number of measures in China, including integrating its sales and manufacturing companies into a single organisation, adding 75 new dealers to its retail network (now with more than 330 outlets) and expanding its model range to include seven new Mercedes model lines, including a Chinese-specific long-wheelbase E-Class.

It also began manufacturing four- and six-cylinder engines in Beijing at the company’s first car engine plant outside Germany.

“Our strategy is paying off,” Dr Zetsche said. “Our unit sales rose by 15 per cent in China in 2013. And in November 2013, we acquired a 12 per cent interest in our longstanding partner BAIC Motor. This makes us the first foreign car manufacturer ever to hold shares in a Chinese OEM.”

Mercedes’ expansion in China will continue, with another 100 dealers anticipated this year and more than 20 new or updated car models by 2015, including numerous AMG variants.

The Denza electric car, built in collaboration with BYD and designed in the early stages by Australian Peter Arcadipane, will also be shown in production form at this month’s Beijing show, alongside a new C-Class “precisely tailored to the requirements of our Chinese customers”, according to Dr Zetsche.

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