July 27, 2007

BCB: It's Short For B-Class BS


Mercedes Benz USA CEO Ernst Lieb tells Bloomberg that the company "is designing a version of its Mercedes-Benz B-Class car for sale in North America for the first time." Great news! Unless you're Canadian, in which case you've been forgotten again.

The compact, people-moving, efficient B-Class has been on sale in Canada for over two years. But wait, there's more:

"At least we have the door open, so the decision will probably be done in two or three years,'' Lieb said yesterday in an interview. Designing a new model for the U.S. is cheaper than redesigning the current B-Class, he said.
Uh, what? The current B-Class was already slated for the US market, and was reportedly only axed when the euro jumped all the way to $1.15, making the car's original $30,000 pricepoint unprofitable.

Also, MBUSA wanted to focus their people-moving attentions on the R-Class. Glad that turned out so well. If Dan Neil is to be believed--and I agree with him, so he's obviously right--the B-Class woulda coulda been what the R-Class woefully was not. [Though the Jalopnik commenters point out, even where it IS for sale, the B-Class is mostly AWOL on the road.]

So what we have here is an announcement of a decision in 2010 whether to bring a B-Class to the US in 2012? From the team that took ten freakin' years to bring the Smart Car to the US, this sounds just about right. MBUSA's only hope is that shoppers for sweet family cars will grow weary of following all the new Audi wagon models being introduced every year and, numbed from all the other choices, will wander into a Mercedes dealership.

Daimler May Offer U.S. B-Class as Fuel Prices Rise
[bloomberg via jalopnik]


The B-class looks like an R-class that was left in the dryer a little too long, but I still like the way it looks.
Probably the only way the B-class will work in the US is if it gets built at the M-B plant in Alabama, and even then, the cost of components from Europe might kill it. However, it might be good for using excess capacity of that plant from the decline in M-B SUV sales.
But where's the upside for M-B? Why would they want to go downmarket in the US where they are seen as a luxury brand?

[I just don't follow the luxury logic; BMW and Audi, hell, even Lexus have viable offerings across a range of categories. MB's just lazy and snobbish and out of touch with the rest of MB worldwide, frankly. Maybe that's what Lieb is here to fix, but he's not going to do it by blowing smoke about the B-Class. -ed.]

I just don't see what your attraction to these things is, Greg. It's just the Mercedes version of every other monospace you see literally EVERYWHERE on the road in Europe (like the Mazda5, the Renault Scenic, the VW Touran, the Opel Zafira, the Citroen C4 Picasso, the Ford Cmax, etc. etc.), and of which only the Mazda5 is actually available here in the US.

[true, it's just a proxy for my decade-old A-Class lust. -ed.]

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