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Mercedes CLA beset by long waiting lists

Mr Popular: Like its A-Class platform-mate, demand for the Mercedes CLA is far outstripping supply, and the forthcoming GLA crossover is liable to be stretched to an even larger degree.

New baby Benz sedan, the CLA, attracts waiting lists of seven months or more

Mercedes-Benz logo28 Nov 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

MERCEDES-BENZ continues to be a victim of its own success at the lower end of Australia’s premium car market, with its newly launched CLA sedan commanding an even longer waiting list than the hugely popular A-Class sibling since its launch in March.

Debuting early last month from a tick under $50,000, the swooping CLA sedan has prompted a flurry of interest from existing Benz buyers and – much more importantly – so-called ‘conquest’ buyers shuttling in from other brands, premium and mainstream alike.

As a result, the Hungarian plant that builds CLA cannot keep up with demand from here and abroad, and the local stock levels are too low to come close to satisfying ravenous early demand.

“It’s fair to say we undercalled the CLA,” a Mercedes spokesman told us this week.

Buyers looking at an entry CLA200 will have to wait until about mid 2014 before picking up the keys if they order now. Those interested in the $86,900 CLA45 AMG face an even longer wait, according to Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific managing director Horst von Sanden.

And this poses a serious issue for the brand, says Mr von Sanden, because the nature of conquest customers is that they might be less liable to wait than diehard fans.

“You have those who are 100 per cent determined to wait, but not everyone,” he told GoAuto this week. “The trouble is, it’s a conquest segment, and then, you might have a bit of a problem.

“The CLA and A-Class change the way people look at us as a brand. Next year we will get more supply, but maybe not enough (to satisfy demand). I doubt it.” Mercedes shifted 243 CLAs in October, its first month on sale.

Mr von Sanden added that there was some opportunity to move potential CLA buyers up into the shorter, but pricier, C-Class, much like it put prospective A-Class buyers into the more family friendly B-Class earlier this year.

Benz also says a small number of customers particularly caught out by the CLA delay, likely those who placed early orders in the proviso of shorter wait times, might be put into B-Class loan cars while they awaited their new CLA.

In an additional development, the supply issues first experienced on the A-Class and transposed to the CLA shows no signs of abating as Benz continues it small-car rollout. The next figurative cab off the rank is the A-Class-based GLA small crossover SUV.

Asked if stocks of that car will be constrained a la its siblings, a Mercedes-Benz spokesman answered: “The GLA will be even worse.”

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