Barely a year after launching its new CLA coupe-like sedan, Mercedes-Benz has sold more than 30,000 to U.S. buyers and, the maker claims, probably would be doing twice that volume if it could get more from its new factory in Hungary.
No wonder the maker’s senior executives are positively jumping for joy as the even newer Mercedes-Benz GLA heads for U.S. showrooms. “The segment is potentially three times as large,” suggested communications chief Rob Moran, during a media drive of the new crossover-utility vehicle in Vermont.
Crossovers are already beginning to outsell conventional sedans in the U.S. market, and most analysts anticipate the same thing is about to happen in the compact luxury segment. That’s spurring a flood of new offerings, the GLA just one of the latest to join such alternatives as the BMW X1.
Lincoln recently launched its MKC, and Lexus will be coming into the fold with the new NX. Cadillac is also expected to enter the fray before the end of the decade as it begins a major product expansion program. Infiniti will offer two of its own models, the Q30 and slightly more truck-like QX30.
“The segment is only going to get bigger because there will be so many more choices,” stressed Dave Sullivan a senior analyst with consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc.
As with the sedan segment, high-line manufacturers like Mercedes are hoping to draw buyers away from more mainstream brands by offering a mix of luxury features at an unexpectedly affordable price. The Mercedes GLA, for example, is starting a just $31,990.
“But nobody’s going to buy that one,” said Sullivan.
The reality is that dealers are stocking few of these loss-leaders. Those buying the Mercedes CLA model are typically spending at least $5,000 more to add various options. The same is true with other manufacturers.
(Get a look at TDB’s first impressions of the new GLA. For more, Click Here.)
Mainstream manufacturers are struggling to fight back by offering still more luxury upgrades to their own models. But the appeal of the BMW spinner, and the Mercedes tri-star logo, are clearly apparent. The latter maker claims a good half of the buyers for the CLA sedan are entering the luxury market for the first time. It expects the same to happen with the GLA crossover.
(Click Here for details about Ford’s recall of 850,000 vehicles.)
The GLA is coming to market about a year after the CLA. The delay could prove useful, allowing Mercedes to expand its production capacity – and to address early concerns about the sedan. Despite its initial popularity, the CLA took a fair bit of hits from reviewers who sniped at its rough ride and some less than impressive interior details.
(To see more about VW’s plans to bring the Phaeton back to the U.S., Click Here.)
That’s beginning to show up in some customer satisfaction and quality studies, noted Sullivan, though the analyst quickly added that Mercedes is being “extra proactive” in addressing such problems as it prepares to launch sales of the new GLA.
In spite of such issues, demand is expected to be strong, and the number of new buyers entering the segment is likely to be significant, spurring even more manufacturers to come up with offerings of their own in the next few years.