By Kurt Ernst
If you asked us to name the most significant product to be shown at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, it’s likely we’d tell you “the Mercedes-Benz CLA.” While the compact four-door coupe may not have the mystique or appeal of the new Corvette, the car represents a new direction for Mercedes, and its success (or failure) will likely have a huge impact on Mercedes’ future product plans.
That’s a lot riding on a single model, but Mercedes-Benz has been losing market share to BMW and Audi for several years. One way to regain this lost business is to offer a less expensive “image model,” pitched squarely to Millennial buyers. Sure, you can get it with enough horsepower to be entertaining, but most import to buyers in this demographic is it’s connectivity. The CLA is social-media ready, styled like a concept car and (allegedly) affordable for a wider segment of the population than a C-Class Mercedes.
If the CLA is the hit that Mercedes predicts, the German luxury automaker could claw its way out of third place in luxury sales, perhaps overtaking Audi for the number two spot. If the car is a failure, current Mercedes management will have a lot of explaining to do; after all, offering cars affordable to the masses wasn’t what put the three-pointed star on the map.
Look for specific details on models, output and pricing closer to the car’s launch. In the mean time, what’s your take on the CLA? Is it the car that will save Mercedes-Benz, or is it just another failed attempt to lure buyers under the age of 30? Is the four-door coupe body style played out? Let us know.