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AMG to shun CLC, GLK

Compact coupe: Three-door CLC was revealed this week in Berlin.

Benz hot-tuner says it will pass on the chance to build a BMW M3 rival with its CLC

Mercedes-Benz logo25 Jan 2008

By JAMES STANFORD

MERCEDES-BENZ tuning house AMG will not produce a hot version of the upcoming two-door C-class.

AMG chairman Volker Mornhinweg told GoAuto at the Detroit auto show last week that the new C-class-based CLC coupe will not be given the AMG treatment.

He also revealed the company is unlikely to develop a tuned version of the GLK compact all-wheel-drive and was not quite ready to produce a stand-alone AMG model.

The prospect of an AMG C-class coupe developed to further challenge the M3 might be mouth-watering to some, but Mr Mornhinweg revealed it was not on the AMG menu. “We will have a look at each product - is it the right fit, is the customer base big enough? And so far we have said that C63 is the entry level into the AMG world,” he said.

“So far, we say that’s it.” Mr Mornhinweg said the investment required to develop an AMG version of the CLC was the biggest problem. “The point is that our customers expect that when we make an AMG, this is something that is unique, something that is special, that is set-up.

“(We do) not just put a big engine in and some styling stuff… we do it right, and we spend money.

"You invest a lot of money and then you have to also set some price in the market and when you go down and down, it is difficult to get this premium price.” Mr Mornhinweg said AMG was also unlikely to develop its own version of the GLK compact SUV, not that it affects Australian customers given the standard GLK is not slated to be built in right-hand-drive.

He suggested there was no room for a third AMG SUV at this stage.

“Currently, we have two SUVs in our portfolio. The G-Wagen is a cult car - we sold 1400 units (of the G55 last year). We have the ML63, which is excellent, which means we have two products in that segment,” he said.

4 center imageLeft: CLC coupe and GLK.



“You have to take care. If you take a third SUV, the question at the end of the day is, is that too much? For the moment we are well prepared because we are the only ones in the segment who has a portfolio of sedans, convertibles, roadsters and SUVs.” There might be plenty of customer interest in a stand-alone AMG model, which would contrast with the existing cars that are modified Mercedes-Benz models, but Mr Mornhinweg said there were no such plans at this stage.

But he did leave the door open for such a car.

“You can never say no. We are now 40 years in the market. We have a high-performance specific feel, a very good heritage, we were born on the race track, you know that, and I think we make big moves during the last five, seven, eight years, and therefore there might be coming the opportunity to do something like that. So far, nothing is defined in detail,” he said.

While Mr Mornhinweg said any such program would depend on customer demand, he confirmed that a stand-alone model would not be anywhere near as expensive as the $1.8 million SLR McLaren.

“What we don’t want to do is something the same as the SLR, because this is a very high-priced product. It is very unique product and the target with that was to sell too much of the product. That is not something that we would like to do,” he said.

While a unique AMG is no certainty, Mr Mornhinweg did confirm AMG would develop more track-ready Black Series cars after building SLK and CLK versions.

The special SLK was built only in left-hand drive, but the CLK was made available as a right-hand drive model and has just been cleared for sale in Australia.

Mr Mornhinweg told GoAuto that any future Black Series cars, which are developed at AMG’s new Performance Studio at its Affalterbach headquarters, will be made in both left and right-hand-drive.

He explained the SLK Black Series was developed only as a left-hand drive model because AMG wanted to have it ready before the opening of the Performance Studio in 2006.

“The time was very short so we did not have the chance to do right-hand drive, but in the future we will do so,” he said.

Mr Mornhinweg said the idea to build Black Series cars, which include engine and suspension upgrades, unique interiors and are available with features such as rollcages and special aerodynamic kits, came from AMG customers. “I had a lot of meetings with the customers of the product and they very much appreciated how we defined our products, but they were asking, especially when they go for a weekend on the racetrack, they would like to have something that is really more dedicated for the track,” he said.

“Unfortunately, they would have to take a Porsche or sometimes a Ferrari and they said it would be great if we could offer something like that.

“We founded the performance studio branch of the organisation and there we can really make individual stuff for customers (like) special options, some really one-off things and, of course, the Black Series,” he said.

The first Black Series models have exceeded expectations, said Mr Mornhinweg.

“It is a very successful idea, a very successful product, so it is very clear that we will also make Black Series cars in the future.” Despite the success of the first two models, however, AMG will not give the Black Series treatment to all its models.

“The point is that we will maybe not do that each year. It depends a little bit on which cars might be the right ones, because maybe you can imagine that a four-seater or four-door is not the right thing to do it with, but two-seaters are really a perfect fit for this type of product,” Mr Mornhinweg said.

Read more:

AMG exits German power war


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