ANTIBES, France - Daimler-Chrysler expects to double its sales in the luxury coupe class with the launch this month of the new Mercedes-Benz CL.
Jurgen Hubbert, D/C management board member for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, said the new CL was much more than a coupe body on an S-class platform - a criticism sometimes leveled at the last CL.
'We wanted to do more than just cut the roof line off the S-class,' Hubbert said. 'The car makes its own statement.'
The launch of the new CL 500 and CL 600 models marks Mercedes-Benz's re-entry into the top end of the luxury coupe segment.
For the first time, big money has been spent on the car. The technical department had a budget of DM500 million (euro 253 million). Another DM150 million was invested in new tooling and machinery. All body parts are unique to the CL.
'The CL features lightweight construction, which contributes to a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy,' said Hubbert. Fuel consumption is 13.4-liters per 100km for the CL 500; slightly less for the CL 600.
The new CL weighs between 1790-1880kg, about 340kg lighter than its predecessor. It uses a host of lightweight materials, including aluminum, magnesium, plastic and high-strength steel.
Several innovative features help save further weight. The trunk lid is made of fiber-reinforced plastic. Thanks to this material, the aerials for the phone and navigation system can be built invisibly into the lid.
The CL's doors are made from an alloy-magnesium compound. They are 34 percent lighter than the sheet steel doors of the outgoing model.
'With the CL, we have taken driving dynamics a further step forward with the world premiere of active body control,' said Hubbert. 'By countering body pitch, bounce and roll, this system gives the car superb, sporty handling. It also offers a considerable improvement in ride comfort.'
ABC is standard on the CL and will be available as an option on the S-class from January 2000.
Both the CL 500 and CL 600 deliver impressive performance data. Top speed is, as with all Mercedes-Benz cars, limited to 250kph. But the CL 600 can sprint from 0-100kph in 6.1 seconds. The CL 500 is not far behind at 6.5 seconds. An AMG version will follow in mid-2000.
'We have invested a considerable amount of money in the new CL, much more than the previous-generation car,' said Hubbert.
'Given its technical features and visual qualities, our ambitions for the new model have risen significantly,' he said. 'We want to double sales over the CL's life span and gain a 30 percent market share at the top end of the luxury segment.'
The CL's expected life span is about eight years. Sales of between 50,000-60,000 are planned during this period. Forecasts say 80 percent of customers will opt for the CL 500.
Nine thousand cars will be built in the first full year of production. Germany will receive 4,000 units, and the USA almost 3,000. The previous-generation CL sold 26,000 units.
Mercedes-Benz regards the Aston Martin range, Jaguar's XK models and the Porsche 911 as competitors. 'We are emphasizing the sporty aspects of the CL,' said Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes-Benz's head of sales and marketing.
Suppliers to the Mercedes-Benz CL, Page 20