WALLAND, Tennessee -- Mercedes-Benz is collecting input from U.S. consumers as it reviews design choices for a new range of entry-level models.
Three variants are under consideration: a crossover, sporty coupe and sedan. They are based on the redesigned, front-drive B-class platform and would be positioned below the C class. Sales are expected to begin after 2011.
“The first clinics have been done in the U.S. market,” said Bernhard Glaser, general manager of product development at Mercedes-Benz USA. “We are still at a very early stage. The design freeze has not taken place.”
Glaser, interviewed at a Mercedes event here, said focus groups were shown full-sized clay models.
U.S. dealers have made it clear they do not want a hatchback. The B class sold in Europe and Canada is a boxy five-door hatchback that they say does not fit Mercedes' luxury image.
“They were concerned about the previous generation because it did stand out, and that is kind of a whole different brand sell that you have to try and jump over,” said Mercedes spokesman Geoff Day. “This will be seamless.”
Tommy Baker, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealer council and a Charleston, South Carolina, dealer, has seen the proposed models. He called the look “cutting-edge.”
Glaser said Mercedes has not decided whether the cars would be sold under the B-class name in the United States or have a separate designation.