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Beijing show: Mercedes greets GLK

Benz boffins: Chief Mercedes-Benz designer professor Peter Pfeiffer (left) and his successor Gorden Wagener with the new GLK.

Production Benz GLK emerges as Benz hints at RHD version for Oz, but it won't be AWD

21 Apr 2008

MERCEDES-BENZ has had second thoughts about producing its all-new GLK soft-roader in right-hand drive, but will have to wait until a mid-life update to re-engineer the vehicle.

Even then, the conversion will apparently only be possible by eliminating its all-wheel drive capability, leaving a potential Australian model as rear-drive only.

Mercedes-Benz Australia has pushed for the vehicle and a spokesman said that the factory had decided that it perhaps should have engineered the compact SUV for RHD from the outset.

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“There have been comments by (Mercedes chief Dieter) Zetsche and (development boss) Dr Weber that, when the car is updated, there is every possibility there will be a right-hook version,” said M-B Australia communications manager David McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy said the company has not been told when this might be, but suggested it would be at least a couple of years.

This week the production-ready version of the GLK made its first public appearance at the Beijing motor show.

The German company’s first “world premiere” in China was accompanied by actress Zhang Ziyi, who is a superstar in China and found global fame in Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Dr Zetsche said the boxy GLK is an important element in the German company’s expansion into the growing Chinese market, where it rates number one for customer sales satisfaction.

“It’s a testimony to this important and fast-growing market that we are presenting our most significant new model of 2008 in China,” said Dr Zetsche.

“After last year’s success, which saw Mercedes-Benz China achieve a volume increase of 53 percent, the new GLK will inject additional momentum here and in other markets.” Mercedes-Benz sold 26,900 vehicles in China last year and in the first quarter this year sales are up by 43 per cent, with significant growth for the locally manufactured E-Class, which has been built in China since late 2006.

The new C-Class also entered local production in March while Mercedes-Benz Transporters will be produced in Fuzhou starting in 2009.

Dr Zetsche also announced in Beijing that Mercedes’ Smart brand will be launched in China in mid-2009.

The BMW X3-rivalling GLK was first revealed in pre-production form at the Detroit motor show in January, where company executives told GoAuto that there were no plans for right-hand drive production.

Read more:

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