STUTTGART -- Mercedes-Benz is renaming the M class as the GLE class as part of a strategy to align the badges of its SUVs with the most closely related sedan.
When the M class receives a face-lift in early 2015, it will be called the GLE class. A crossover coupe version, previewed by the Concept Coupe SUV in April at the Beijing auto show, will be called the GLE Coupe.
The new badge is part of a renaming strategy, according to multiple sources in the company. The third letter hints at the most closely related sedan. The GLE name indicates a tie to the E class, while the GLA is related to the A class. The coupe versions will be characterized by a lower roofline but not necessarily by a two-door body.
Potentially, the GLK class compact SUV’s successor will be called the GLC class, and the GL-class full-size crossover’s successor will be called the GLS class. The GLS class will be positioned higher than the current GL class and offer a Maybach trim level.
The same system can apply to sporty derivatives such as the CLA-class sedan, which is related to the A class.
The changes in the nomenclature are understood to be pushed by marketing chief Ola Kaellenius. They are intended to bring more clarity to the vast model portfolio, which includes 16 model lines in Daimler's German home market.
In the past, the changes in Mercedes nomenclature have often seemed random. In the last three model generations, the two-door version of the S class has been called the SEC, the S-class coupe and the CL class, before reverting to S-class coupe. The hatchback C-class coupe became the short-lived CLC class.
Within Daimler, the changes are compared to Audi's bold mid-1990s renaming strategy. Back then, the Audi 80 was replaced by the A4, and the face-lifted Audi 100 became the A6. The top-of-the-line sedan, replacing the Audi V8, became the A8.
Walking away from the M-class moniker could be risky. The U.S.-built SUV, offered since the 1998 model year, has been one of the brand's biggest sellers and it is a universally recognized nameplate.
When it was launched, Mercedes intended to put "M" badges on its tailgate, a move that was stopped by an objection from BMW. While promoted as the M class, the vehicle received “ML” badges.
Mercedes declined to comment on the changes.