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Mercedes seeks feedback on entry-level designs

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Mercedes seeks feedback on entry-level designs

Rick Kranz

Automotive News -- May 10, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

WALLAND, Tenn. -- Mercedes- Benz is collecting input from U.S. consumers as it reviews design choices for a new range of entry-level models.

Three variants are under consideration: a crossover, sporty coupe and sedan. They are based on the redesigned, front-drive B-class platform and would be positioned below the C class. Sales are expected to begin after 2011.

“The first clinics have been done in the U.S. market,” said Bernhard Glaser, general manager of product development at Mercedes-Benz USA. “We are still at a very early stage. The design freeze has not taken place.”

Glaser, interviewed at a Mercedes event here, said focus groups were shown full-sized clay models.

U.S. dealers have made it clear they do not want a hatchback. The B class sold in Europe and Canada is a boxy five-door hatchback that they say does not fit Mercedes’ luxury image.

“They were concerned about the previous generation because it did stand out, and that is kind of a whole different brand sell that you have to try and jump over,” said Mercedes- Benz U.S. spokesman Geoff Day. “This will be seamless.”

Tommy Baker, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealer council and a Charleston, S.C., dealer, has seen the proposed models. He called the look “cutting-edge.”

Glaser said Mercedes has not decided whether the cars would be sold under the B-class name in the United States or have a separate designation.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100510/OEM03/100509848/1427#ixzz0nXBaY1fR

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