CLA, Redux? Mercedes-Benz Has a Strategy for Its A-Class Sedan

A Class Concept Mercedes, Image: Daimler AG

Taking a page from its own playbook, the launch of the littlest Mercedes-Benz sedan will mirror the steps taken by the brand when it foisted the CLA onto the American market in 2013.

According to the company, roughly three-quarters of early CLA buyers were people who had never before owned a Mercedes. The company thinks, likely correctly, it’ll be able to duplicate that feat when the A-Class sedan goes on sale late this year.

“We want to duplicate the success we had with the CLA, meaning tremendous customer demand … and attracting new customers to the brand,” Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Dietmar Exler said to Automotive News during an interview with that publication at the Detroit show in January. Those CLA buyers “came from pretty much everywhere. They were substantially younger.”

We’ve already seen the interior, with official pictures surfacing back in November. Surely the photos are of a top-tier trim, as the gauges and infotainment are of the Jumbotron variety, but a lot of the hard points will carry over to the potential sub-$30,000 model. That trio of air vents would look at home in an S-Class.

It’s reported that the A-Class will also be the debut of the new “Mercedes-Benz User Experience” media system, incorporating artificial intelligence features, augmented reality nav, and voice control launched by saying, “Hey Mercedes.” The car’s intended demographic already interact with various devices via voice – Siri, Amazon Echo – so the three-pointed star is banking that familiarity will make bank with the target market.

The A-Class hatch will be shown first, set to appear on February 2nd at an event in Amsterdam. Reports have only the sedan version of the A coming stateside, riding atop the second-generation MFA platform found underneath the CLA and GLA. This is likely a sensible decision, as most customers in this country will not buy hatchbacks unless they are marketed as a crossover. Those with long memories will recall BMW’s brief foray into the entry-level hatch business with its 318i in the mid-‘90s, which had a very short shelf life.

Mercedes has been mum about sticker prices, but it’s a safe bet the A-Class will set an opening bid below the CLA, which currently starts at $32,700 in America. If Merc prices the base A below $30,000, even by a single buck, it would open up the brand to shoppers who likely would not have even considered setting foot in a Benz showroom.

As for brand dilution, well, that’s a topic for a whole ‘nuther post.

[Image: Daimler AG]