TIVERTON, R.I. — New J.D. Power and Associates research has found that car buyers are moving toward smaller vehicles with increased comfort and features, a trend that Mercedes-Benz is embracing with a handful of new or revamped compacts. The luxury automaker has developed a new Mercedes Front Architecture (MFA) platform on which to build its new small cars, like the redesigned Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class already being produced in Europe.
While Mercedes-Benz has yet to confirm whether the existing A-Class hatchback will make its way to the United States, it recently announced plans for a new compact crossover based on the MFA platform that appears destined for U.S. Mercedes-Benz dealers. The new compact utility is expected to be called the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and it would compete domestically with the likes of the Audi Q3 and the upcoming BMW X1. Rumors aside, American buyers can depend on the early-2013 arrival of a new compact four-door coupe dubbed the CLA-Class, and Automotive News has reported that an electric version of the B-Class will be coming stateside in 2014.
"We expect that as many as four new Mercedes-Benz compact models could arrive at our dealership during the next couple years," said Will Dame, general manager of Viti Inc., a Mercedes-Benz dealer in Tiverton, R.I. "More and more buyers want smaller vehicles that don't sacrifice amenities and performance, and there is no better automaker to provide those premium features than Mercedes-Benz."
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class are each produced at the automaker's Rastatt, Germany plant, where the GLA-Class will also be made. Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz's parent company, is doubling investment at the plant to build the sportier compact cars, increasing funding to $1.46 billion by the end of 2013. All new MFA-based vehicles are designed to help the manufacturer reach 2.7 million in overall global sales by 2020, which is roughly twice the amount that Mercedes-Benz sold in 2011.
In the recently released J.D. Power and Associates “2012 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study,” 27 percent of new-vehicle buyers went with a smaller vehicle, while only 13 percent opted for a larger ride. The study surveyed more than 74,000 purchasers and lessees of new, 2012-model-year vehicles on more than 80 attributes to determine the models in each segment that provided the most gratification for owners.
A small yet stylish model currently at dealerships, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, finished at the top of the Compact Premium Sporty Car segment in the 2012 APEAL Study, closely followed the E-Class Cabriolet and E-Class Coupe. However, the brand's appeal also extended to its larger offerings, with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan, E-Class Wagon and M-Class SUV also ranking highly in their segments.
"The preferred size and shape of vehicle may vary from one buyer to the next, but Mercedes-Benz has remained consistent in providing only the best in terms of comfort and ride across its lineup," Dame noted. "The automaker's upcoming compacts may be smaller than popular Mercedes-Benz models like the M-Class SUV and flagship S-Class sedan, but they'll find success by giving their owners the same excitement when they sit inside."