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Mercedes attracts new customer breed

Nubile mobile: Mercedes' small models are driving demand from a younger crowd but more choice in the mid-size segments will also increase its appeal, says the company.

Small car line-up attracting new customers, says Mercedes design chief

Mercedes-Benz logo2 Jul 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

MERCEDES-BENZ’S strategy to win the attention of a younger crowd is working, says the German luxury marque, with the recent expansion into smaller hatchbacks, sedans and SUVs attracting new faces.

Nevertheless, the company reckons it is maintaining its traditional customer base with longer-standing models.

Speaking at the unveiling of the GLK-replacing GLC mid-sized SUV, Mercedes-Benz exterior design director Robert Lesnik said the introduction of A-Class was a bold move that had succeeded in attracting a younger audience.

“People always say young is positive,” he said. “I would say maybe that's not a typical Mercedes buyer 10 years ago.

“Two years ago we presented the (latest) A-Class, which I believe was a game changer. Nobody believed that Mercedes could do A-Class. Still not everybody likes it but let's call it different.”

Mr Lesnik said it was not just the size of the vehicles that appealed to a younger crowd but mostly the styling.

He said creating something new in the market was key rather than synthesizing the competition.

“If you ask me how, it's through design, a design statement,” he said. “Not too much through the mainstream. A-Class or GLA for example.

“If you try to beat the Golf you will never succeed – or any car in its fifth or sixth or seventh generation. We went our way. We did something that is love it or hate it.”

While the new smaller ranges are doing their job and attracting new customers, Mr Lesnik said the vehicles more readily associated with the Mercedes brand were catering for the company's existing customers.

“With the C-Class in its fifth generation, we want to keep that customer, but with CLA and a new generation we want to get new customers,” he said.

Mercedes will target a combination of old and new customers with its new GLC mid-sized SUV, and Mr Lesnik said a number of “derivatives” would broaden its appeal.

He did not elaborate on which variants would follow the revealed SUV, but a coupe version to do battle with BMW's X4 has been confirmed, while a seven-seater has not been ruled out.

“There will be derivatives but I cannot tell you which derivatives,” he said.

“A seven-seat version is, at the end, only a derivative of a design that you do first.

“A seven seater is a little bit difficult to handle in terms of exterior design so that it doesn't look too big. It should not look like a bus.

“You have to use optical tricks, maybe the side windows are shorter so that you disguise a bigger volume. For the GLC it would be just a derivative.

“We consider everything all the time because we are designers.”

Until now, Mercedes has been unable to compete in right-hand drive markets with the GLK, but its replacement will be manufactured in both right and left-hand drive.

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