Mercedes-Benz has revealed it could have launched a style-focused crossover-coupe well before BMW introduced the X6, but it instead chose to focus on the developing a new family of front-wheel drive entry-level models.
Speaking at the global launch of the 2016 GLE-Class, Wolf-Dieter Kurz, Mercedes’ vice president of SUVs and sports cars, explained the company toyed around with the idea of a building crossover-coupe in the early 2000s when it was looking for a way to rejuvenate its image and explore new segments. Ultimately, executives decided to allocate the company’s resources to developing an entire family of entry-level cars instead of designing a single niche model with a very limited appeal. Unsurprisingly, Kurz argues Mercedes made the right decision.
“It’s also a question of capacity. Where do you put your R&D guys and what type of vehicle do you ask them to develop? Of course the development of a new vehicle represents the same effort regardless of if you sell one million or 100,000, so that is why the investment decision was taken,” said Kurz.
It looks like Mercedes’ bet has paid off. BMW sold about 300,000 examples of the first-gen X6 globally from 2008 to 2014, but Mercedes has built over a million examples of the A-, B-, CLA-, and GLA-Class since 2011. MFA-based cars have played a tremendous role in luring new and younger buyers into showrooms, and they currently represent about 28 percent of the brand’s global sales.
Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have some catching up to do. The X6-fighting GLE Coupe is on sale now, and a smaller model called GLC Coupe is expected to join the lineup in about a year in order to take on the BMW X4. On the other side of Germany, BMW launched the B-Class-fighting 2 Series Active Tourer a year ago, and it will introduce an entry-level front-wheel drive sedan aimed right at the CLA in a couple of years.