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Mercedes ready for SUV roll-out

Middle order: The current-generation Mercedes-Benz GLK (left) did not make it to Australia as it was left-hand drive only, but the new version is set to arrive next year.

Next year to be ‘the year of the SUVs’ for Mercedes, with GLK coupe on the cards

12 Sep 2014

MERCEDES-BENZ will ramp up its SUV range expansion next year, with new nameplates and updated models planned in the next 15 months, which could include a swoopy coupe version of the GLK mid-sizer.

The second-generation version of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3-rivaling GLK will lob in Australia late next year, after missing out on an Australian birth in first-gen guise due to left-hand drive-only production.

Speaking with Australian media at the GT coupe unveiling in Germany this week, Daimler AG chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dieter Zetsche hinted at a possible rival for the new BMW X4, in the shape of a GLK-based coupe crossover, telling GoAuto that “it is certainly a possibility”.

If a GLK coupe gets the green light, it will likely be in 2016 at the earliest as the German car-maker gets ready to introduce the regular GLK to the Australian market next year.

Dr Zetsche also hinted at a high-performance version of the GLK, that would be tuned by the company’s fast-car skunkworks, AMG.

“The sporty and strong vehicles on Mercedes production side typically get an AMG version, so stay tuned.”

Before the GLK arrives, the German car-maker will bring in a refreshed version of its top-selling SUV – the M-Class – as well as a facelifted version of its hulking seven-seat GL-Class in 2015.

Benz will also introduce its version of the swoopy BMW X6 SUV-cum-coupe – during 2015, which will be based on the Concept Coupe SUV from the Beijing motor show in April this year.

The MLC will be based on the more practical ML-Class, and is likely to be available with petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains and could also spawn an AMG-fettled version.

Dr Zetsche said the German brand would boost its product portfolio significantly next year with a slew of high-riding wagons set to arrive.

“Next year is the year of the SUVs for us,” he said. “We will have the GLK replacement, we will have the coupe version of the M-Class, we have the facelift for the M-Class and the GL, so basically a full and fresh portfolio in SUVs we will see in the market, and the GLA is obviously brand new as well.”

Reports have suggested that Mercedes would alter its naming policy for SUV models, which would result in the M-Class changing to GLE-Class for future generations.

While Dr Zetsche did not confirm the change to the naming strategy, he added that there was room for a reorganisation to make it clearer for consumers, despite the M-Class having strong brand cache.

“We will talk about nomenclature in the near future,” he said.

“Of course it is a strong brand. On the other hand we might see an opportunity of becoming more organised and more logic in our line up, so we will see.”

While rivals BMW and Audi have led the way with SUV model introductions and sales, both globally and locally in recent years, Mercedes is playing catch-up with the introduction of its first compact SUV, the GLA, to Australia in April.

Since its release, the GLA has averaged about 110 units per month and is sitting on 559 sales so far this year. Due to its start in April, it naturally still trails the top-selling Audi Q3 on 1930 sales and the BMW X1 with 1202.

The M-Class is running second to the BMW X5 in the large SUV over $70,000 segment with sales of 1967 and 2770 respectively for the year to the end of August, while the GL-Class is dominating the upper-large premium SUV category with 429 sales, ahead of the Range Rover on 236 in the same period.

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