First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Small cars are big in luxury.

by on Sep.15, 2011

Mercedes-Benz is betting the new version of its B-Class will help it gain ground in the market for small luxury cars.

Small cars are big these days, as the posters for the Frankfurt Motor Show declare.  And while that’s probably no surprise among mainstream brands like Volkswagen, which focused much of its news conference on the micro-sized Up! line, even luxury makers are getting into the downsizing game.

This year’s big European auto show brings out a variety of models designed to show that luxury doesn’t have to be measured by the pounds and inches – er, kilograms and meters – though many of the offerings on display, such as the Audi A2, are glimpses of products yet to come.  Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, says the time is now with the remake of its compact B-Class people-mover.

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Adopting an all-new chassis and a significantly refined look, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class is one of roughly a half-dozen new small car models the German luxury icon is planning to bring to market in the next year or so.

The B-Car will start rolling into showrooms by autumn, in fact.  And Mercedes will have a lot riding on it as the maker’s earlier take on the compact luxury class generated only moderate sales, at best when compared to rivals like BMW and Audi.

The underlying MFA platform will be shared between the Mercedes A- and B-Class models -- and with Nissan's Infiniti brand.

That’s bad news considering the generational shift underway in Europe – and in many other parts of the world – where the bigger-is-better mantra is now being abandoned.  Younger buyers want smaller vehicles, on the whole, though research also reveals they want similar levels of luxury to customers past.  To that, add an array of high-tech features, including infotainment technology as well as advanced safety.

The new 2012 Mercedes B-Class, said development chief Thomas Weber, will offer standard features such as Bluetooth and USB links, as well as Facebook access.  There will also be some of the advanced systems previously found on higher-line Mercedes models, such as Distronic, a technology that can maintain the flow of traffic and even help the new B-Class avoid a potential accident.

Parent Daimler AG has invested about $1.9 billion into a new Hungarian plant that will produce both the B-Class and even smaller A-Class models – they will also be built in Germany, suggesting the sales ambitions of the company.

A senior Mercedes official suggested “the time is ripe” for bringing one of the new small cars to the States.  Which one remains a matter of debate, though after the debut of an A-Class concept at the New York Auto Show, earlier this year, Mercedes’s U.S. CEO Ernst Lieb told one of the A-Class offerings is most likely to leap across the Atlantic.

The challenge is that demand in the State for products like the B-Class — and Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series — has lagged well behind Europe.

The chassis underneath the new A- and B-Class models will be playing a significant role in the link-up between Daimler and the Euro-Asian alliance between Renault and Nissan, meanwhile.  On Wednesday, the partners offered an update on their 18-month-old venture.  (Click Here for the full details.) And one of the most significant developments was the decision to share the so-called MFA platform with Nissan’s luxury arm.  It will serve as the foundation for a production version of the Infiniti Etherea, a distinctive compact luxury car that debuts at the Geneva Motor Show earlier in the year – and which is also on display at the Frankfurt show this month.

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2 Responses to “First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class”

  1. [...] post:  First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz B-Class | This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged been-known, designs-having, european, Japan, [...]

  2. [...] press conference during which the maker unveiled its F125! hydrogen car and new B-Class model (Click Here for more on the 2012 B-Class.) He also held a separate press conference with Renault/Nissan [...]

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