One of the Geneva Motor Show stars was none other than the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. You are probably wondering what’s so special about the third-generation baby Benz, but guess what – it’s coming to India sooner than you think. Confused? You shouldn’t be – Mercedes-Benz has designs to take its sales numbers to 70,000 units by 2020. If you are wondering how, well, read on.
The company is looking to expand its reach into Tier-II/Tier-III cities and beyond, a part of India that has seen an explosion of wealth and spending ability. They plan to reach 10,000 units by the end of this year, which would be a 1/3rd volume increase over their 7,500-odd units sold in 2011. Sure, the C-Class and E-Class will be their volume drivers this year too, but that’s about to go through a sea change.
In come the Mercedes-Benz A and B-Class. The latter, which is expected to arrive later this year, will be the cheapest Mercedes-Benz to go on sale, but not for long. Come late-2013 and Mercedes-Benz would have the A-Class, up and running and gunning for a price tag that could slip under the magic ` 20 lakh mark. As MB India plans a second line at Chakan, not just the A and B-Class, but also the next-generation GLK, the smaller GLC and possibly a fifth model too will be assembled. So what are these cars about? Let’s take a look at the B-Class first.
The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class, which has been updated fairly recently, will be one of the five new models to make it here from Stuttgart. The B-Class will be positioned as a ‘Sports Tourer’, giving it a niche positioning as it tries to differentiate itself from the BMW X1. It is a hatchback, but not like the ones we see running around here. The B-Class measures 4359 mm in overall length, which is about 130 mm longer than the Skoda Yeti SUV – that should convince you that it isn’t a small car. The ‘Sports Tourer’ positioning therefore works perfectly, to shake off the image of an expensive hatchback. This mix of hatchback and MPV will create a segment of its own. In fact, Daimler’s development centre at Bengaluru has been responsible for a significant chunk of development work on the B and A-Class.
The B-Class will be launched here by October this year, to cash in on the festivities associated with Diwali celebrations and the Indian Grand Prix. At first, only a petrol-engined B180, with a Renault-sourced 1.6-litre engine producing 160 bhp will make it here, mated to a brand-new 7-speed DCT dual-clutch gearbox. It should be priced somewhere in the region of Rs 22-23 lakh. A diesel engined variant, most likely the B200 CDI with 136 bhp, will surely come after a few months, with the engine being assembled at Force Motors’ operations. The cars will be brought in as CBUs initially. Once the volumes go up and once the paint shop is operational in December 2012, the cars will be assembled here. The current procedure at Mercedes involves sending the unpainted bodies to Tata Motors’ paint shop and assembling them upon return, so the paint shop will be instrumental in allowing more models to be built here.
This will be the most affordable Mercedes you can buy, and it is coming here in 2013. The A-Class will be priced at about Rs 20 to 21 lakh when it goes on sale, and the price may even dip below the Rs 20 lakh price range if Mercedes decides to take the aggressive approach. This is not only the smallest car in Mercedes’ India range, it will also be the first to sport their new design language, which will be seen in their subsequent new cars. Like the B-Class, the A-Class will also be brought in as a CBU initially, with assembly here later depending on sales and demand.
The expensive ‘sandwich floor,’ which previously allowed the engine to slide under the passenger compartment in case of a collision, has been replaced with a conventional floor to save cost while still ensuring safety. Engine options will include both the A180 and A200 CDI options, as seen on the B-Class, to reduce inventory and increase commonality. These too will be offered with the 7-speed dual-clutch auto. You only see the hatch here, but rest assured, a sedan version is definitely on the cards. This is likely to take on the upcoming Audi A3 sedan, though it could be priced in the region of ` 22-25 lakh. With the next-generation C-Class expected to become more expensive, the sedan should fit in just perfectly.
Apart from these two models, Mercedes-Benz has a lot more planned. Here’s a sneak peak at what’s brewing for India.
The S-Class is the go-to car if you’re looking for a full-sized luxury car and Mercedes just made that deal sweeter by offering a slightly cheaper S-Class. The S300, for which bookings are already open, comes with a 3.0-litre V6 engine making 228 bhp. Prices for the S300 start at Rs 79.45 lakh.
The new M-Class has just been unveiled internationally and that means it’s going to get here soon enough. The new car is based on a completely new design, which improves on both the mechanicals and interior quality. The ML350 CDI will be assembled here, while the ML63 AMG will probably arrive by the end of this year as a CBU.
A new S-Class means more crystal ball gazing, but trust Mercedes-Benz to blow these predictions into the water. The S-Class is expected to be lighter, more tech laden and ultimately a challenge for its competition. Expect the usual S350 CDI with more power, a smaller-engined petrol model, a creamy V8 and, of course, the mad-as-nuts AMG versions here too.
Combined with the ML, the SUV range of Mercedes now accounts for 800 units in their sales and by the end of this year, they plan on doubling that figure. The GL Grand Edition we get now is also a CBU, but come 2013, the GL too will be assembled here. The new GL is well under development and should break cover next year, which means it will show up on our roads soon after that. It will surely follow the A-Class path in terms of design.
This will be the first, significant change to the already excellent current E-Class. Apart from a mildly changed front and rear end, expect the usual raft of changes on the inside and some important mechanical changes too.
The new C-Class is to be larger than the current car, sportier too and possibly will gun for the brilliant BMW 3-Series. The four-cylinder petrol and diesel models will arrive and so will the potent AMG version.
The CLS-Class, when it came out, was a segment buster, which saw great success, with other automakers scrambling to get a model in that segment, the Volkswagen Passat CC being one of them. The CLC will now slot in under the CLS as the smaller, C-Class based, four-door-coupe. Even if VW didn’t give us the Passat CC, Mercedes plans on bringing over the CLC!
Another SUV model? Yep. This one’s a crossover SUV, so it’ll mostly be a FWD vehicle based on the B-Class architecture. Not too many details are known about the GLC-Class, except for the fact that it will be the smallest SUV/crossover in the range. Expect a price tag of under Rs 25 lakh.
The GLK-Class is an SUV from Mercedes which slots in under the ML-Class. This is a direct competitor for the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. It will be assembled here when it comes at the end of 2014 or early 2015. Expect four and six-cylinder diesel models for this one.
Haven’t heard this name before? Neither have we. The MLC-Class is a four-door coupé SUV model in the Mercedes ranks, an X6 competitor. The X6 enjoys good sales numbers and Mercedes wants a piece of that pie.