2008 Mercedes B Class: American Introduction Delayed?

2008 Mercedes B Class: American Introduction Delayed?

Mercedes has long looked at the entire U.S. auto market as fair game, meaning it is not just a place where it can sell luxury vehicles, but a place to market “low budget” vehicles too. Unknown to some American motorists, the Mercedes name is much broader than simply being a luxury make. Like its German rival, Volkswagen, Mercedes sells cars in Europe that compete directly against the Golf as well as against the luxurious VW Phaeton. Still, introducing a “budget Benz” to America is a psychological hurdle that parent DaimlerChrysler is delaying making a commitment to. Let’s take a look at the proposed B Class and the reasons why the model not make it to the U.S. anytime soon.

For starters, the proposed B Class is based upon Mercedes A Class line of cars. Okay, that tells you a lot! In short, the A Class is a true line of compact cars that are popular in Europe. If you were to give serious consideration to purchasing a Volkswagen Golf you would consider the A Class to be its logical competitor. A slightly larger model, the B Class, makes better use of engine placement and design to produce a car that isn’t much larger than the A Class on the outside, but is almost as roomy as the S Class is on the inside [when configured as a wagon].

Beyond all of that, the B Class will be built with Mercedes’ electronic stability program and come equipped with more standard features of any car in its class. Basically, the B Class would be about the size of a Rabbit with all the typical Mercedes gadgets and trim that Mercedes owners prefer. So, if the B Class were to sell in the U.S., most models would likely retail for around $25,000, which is well above the price of a fully loaded Golf.

Published reports via automotive sites and blogs are indicating that the car may not make it to the U.S. due to several concerns. These include:

Cost factor. Mercedes lost plenty of money in 2005 and the company is doing all it can to return to profitability as soon as possible. Preparing any car for the U.S. market takes time and costs money; DaimlerChrysler is loathe to expend money on a project that may not be profitable at the start.

Consumer perception. A very strong psychological aspect must be overcome first and that is consumer perception. While the Mercedes name adorns a variety of vehicle levels in Europe the name is perceived as “pure luxury” in the U.S. Mercedes remembers Cadillac’s attempt in the past to produce a budget Caddy [remember the Cimarron?] and how those attempts failed miserably.

BMW. BMW is also considering importing a budget model, the “1 Series.” Expect Mercedes to get serious about the B Class if BMW imports the 1 Series.

Presently, only the sedan and wagon would be imported to the U.S. and any hatch versions would stay in Europe. With available diesel power, the B Class might thrive as customers gravitate to a car capable of cracking 40 miles to the gallon. Introducing the B Class to the American market is a risky proposition, but what is there about selling cars that isn’t?