Thursday, March 30, 2006

4-door saloon future: Mercedes C-class

Market and derivatives
Luxury saloons in this class are in a good position to face the threat of SUVs and people carriers. Because cars like the C-class, the 3-series or the Lexus IS are inherently desirable cars: expensive, aspirational, sophisticated and with solid image of status, quality and reliability. The average buyer will ponder practical factors while choosing between a Mondeo or Vectra and a Zafira or a small SUV. Space and practicality will favor the people carriers over the traditional saloon. But if a premium choice is thrown in the equation then everything changes! Space and practicality are devalued in favor of the aspirational factor of owning the premium saloon.
However, luxury manufacturers still know that design is the number one factor for the success of a car. Hence the effort that Mercedes has put in the design of the new C-class. But Mercedes is also aware of the importance of derivatives and they know better than anyone that niche-filling is the key for sales but mainly profit. An example: the CLK version of the current W203 lineup is about 300€ less expensive to manufacture than the saloon version. However, Mercedes manages to sell it in average by more 8000€. It is thus understandable that manufacturers will try to fill any profitable niche they can find. And the leaders of this trend are the usual suspects: BMW. As usual ahead of everyone else. If one may dislike the X3 (and I hate that thing) however it is a sure seller and profit-maker for BMW. Mercedes will follow the lead and present is own smaller SUV based on the C-class (the MLK). And very beautiful it will be, as can be seen in this (reliable) interpretations by Huckfeldt. Families will happily spend huge amounts of cash in this vehicle and in numerous and very expensive options. Business as usual for Mercedes.

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