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Australian push for GLK

Small wonder: The upcoming Benz GLK will be a full size smaller than the ML (pictured).

Mercedes-Benz Australia to argue case for right-hand-drive GLK in Stuttgart

5 Nov 2007

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia still hopes to secure a new compact SUV that had previously been ruled out.

A new small crossover wagon, codenamed X204, will fill the hole beneath the ML SUV and is expected to be a big-seller in Europe and the US from 2009.

The only problem is that the model, which is expected to be called the GLK, has been designed on a left-hand-drive platform and there are no existing plans to make it as a right-hand-drive.

That should automatically rule it out for local duty, but Mercedes-Benz Car Group Australia Managing Director, Horst von Sanden will push the case for a right-hand-drive version of the new car at a conference in Germany this week.

He told GoAuto that the topic would definitely be raised at the right-hand-drive workshop in Stuttgart.

While he admits the chances of securing a right-hand-drive version of the GLK are “less that 50:50,” Mr von Sanden believes it is well worth pursuing the case.

“We will keep raising it, because we think it would be a good car for this marketplace,” he said.

“We would certainly love to have it, but we don’t have any good news yet.” The GLK uses the same mechanical base as the AWD versions of the C-, E- and S-class sedans that are currently only made in left-hand-drive.

It is understood the GLK is built off the C-class 4Matic platform.

Altering that platform to accommodate right-hand-drive is understood to involve significant engineering work, which Mercedes-Benz Australia will argue is worthwhile.

In Europe and the US, the GLK will go head to head with the existing BMW X3, the upcoming Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60.

The X3 has had a low profile in Australia given its previous close proximity to the large X5, but it and other small SUVs are expected to increase in popularity in the next few years given relative economy compared to their larger siblings.

It is understood that both the Q5 and XC60 are on the way to Australia and both models will no doubt benefit from the lack of a Mercedes-Benz competitor should the GLK remain barred from the country.

Mr von Sanden said he would also raise the issue of Bluetec diesel engines at the right-hand-drive workshop in Stuttgart.

Currently, the only country with the super-clean diesel technology is the US, but it is expected that Mercedes-Benz will soon announce when European models will go on sale using Bluetec powertrains.

Mr von Sanden said there is currently no timetable for Bluetec introduction for anywhere else outside the US.

He will be pushing hard to make sure Australians don’t have to wait too long for the green technology.

“There is no justification why Australia should be running behind the world in anything. Any technology, we should be in line with anyone else,” he said.

Mr von Sanden said he hoped Australians would have access to Bluetec models before the end of the decade.

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