Does endlessly extending vehicle lines mean ever-expanding sales? Not if you’re Audi, or now, Mercedes-Benz too. The brand is hardly embattled but recently things haven’t been going as well as they might, with several profit warnings and slightly disappointing global deliveries for H1 having been announced in recent times. Can the next wave of passenger cars remedy some of the company’s current ills?

“After a challenging first half of the year, Mercedes-Benz continues to be at the top of the premium segment. We are particularly pleased with the great popularity of the new compact models. In the third quarter, we anticipate sales momentum from the new SUVs with the star,” said Britta Seeger, head of Marketing and Sales, earlier in July.

China is a source of deep pain for many OEMs at the moment but Daimler isn’t one of them. A new sales record for Mercedes-Benz was set there in the first six months, with the same thing happening in France and Spain as well as in several other smaller markets. Nonetheless, such were the setbacks in multiple countries, deliveries dropped by 4.6 per cent in H1 to 1,134,729 cars, the decline in June itself being -3.7 per cent (to 196,230 vehicles).

There are no new passenger cars due out soon but there is much news on the SUV front. That will be discussed in the report which follows this one. However, next year will be a stronger one for car launches, led by the arrival of a fresh S-Class and a facelift for the E-Class. And while it isn’t a high-volume model, the new, larger CLA-Class should expand the brand’s presence in the global D segment, boosted by the addition of the shooting brake from September.

The entry point for the Mercedes car range is the C segment, where the 4,419mm long A-Class five-door hatchback challenges the VW Golf. W177, the fourth generation model, entered series production at Rastatt in April 2018. The German plant is 90km west of Daimler’s Stuttgart headquarters. This followed a premiere at an event in Amsterdam in February 2018 and a public debut at the Geneva motor show one month later. W177 uses an evolution of the third generation model’s MFA architecture.

Production of the A-Class in Hungary was added later in the second quarter of 2018. Build takes place at Mercedes-Benz’s Kecskemét factory. This plant did not build the previous A-Class. After it ceased making the B-Class, the W177 took the place of that car on the line in May 2018. In July 2018, Valmet Automotive added build of the A-Class at its Uusikaupunki factory in Finland.

The current A-Class was the first Mercedes-Benz model to feature MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). A special feature of this multimedia system is its ability to learn thanks to artificial intelligence. MBUX can be individualised and adapts to suit the user.

The launch range consisted of the following variants:

  • A 200, 163PS & 250Nm 1.4-litre, six-speed manual or 7G-DCT
  • A 250, 224PS & 350Nm 2.0-litre, 7G-DCT
  • A 180 d, 116PS & 260Nm 1.5-litre, 7G-DCT

Whilst the A-Class hatchback isn’t exported to the USA (only the sedan is available there), it is sold in Mexico and Canada.

There are two other A-Class variants: a sedan and a long-wheelbase sedan.

The standard length four-door car was revealed to the media at an event in New York in July 2018 with its motor show premiere taking place three months later at the Paris show. The longer car (4,609mm), which has a 60mm lengthier wheelbase (2,789mm), is mainly for China, with the BMW 1 Series sedan its intended rival. The car’s world debut was at the Beijing motor show in April 2018. Its model name is ‘A-Class L Saloon’ (i.e. not sedan). Production commenced in November 2018.

The COMPAS factory in Mexico is the location of build for cars sold in The Americas. The standard wheelbase car is also manufactured in Germany (Rastatt). All body styles should be facelifted in 2022 and replaced in 2025. The successor model might be based on a fresh architecture which could potentially be a JV with BMW AG.

The current B-Class was seen for the first time at last year’s Paris motor show. This five-door hatchback uses the same MFA2 architecture as the A-Class and while the cars share much, the front seat occupants sit 90mm higher in the B-Class.

There were two additional world premieres with this car: Daimler’s own eight-speed dual clutch transmission and the first transversally mounted application of OM 654, the engine code for a 2.0-litre diesel. All engines comply with the Euro 6d-TEMP limits. OM 654q (transverse mounted) is also already compliant with Euro 6d which becomes mandatory for new models on 1 January 2020.

The car went on sale in Germany in the following five forms:

  • B 180 (100kW/136hp and 200Nm M 282 1.3-litre petrol); with 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission
  • B 200 (120kW/163hp and 250Nm M 282 1.3-litre petrol); with 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission
  • B 180 d (85kW/116hp and 260Nm OM 608 1.5-litre diesel); with 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission
  • B 200 d (110kW/150hp and 320Nm OM 654q 2.0-litre diesel); with 8G-DCT dual-clutch transmission
  • B 220 d (140kW/190hp and 400Nm OM 654q 2.0-litre diesel); with 8G-DCT dual-clutch transmission

Even though Rastatt began building the B-Class in November 2018, the first deliveries didn’t take place until February. Production is expected to average around 50,000 cars annually over a seven-year life cycle. A facelift is due to appear in 2022.

The oldest variants of the current C-Class range were launched in 2014 and there were facelifts for all body styles in 2018. Which means a new model is now only 18-24 months away. The next range will use MSA, a new platform that premieres in 2020 with the S-Class and this will also be gradually rolled out for the E- and CLS-Class successors later in the 2020s.

Werk Bremen should again be the lead global plant for the next C-Class. Other facilities which will manufacture cars in this series include plants in Beijing, the USA, Brazil and South Africa. See the link to PLDB at the end of this report for specifics.

There are six cars in the E-Class range: standard wheelbase sedan (W213), LWB sedan (V213, China-only), Coupé (C238), Cabriolet (A238), estate and All-Terrain estate. The first of the six has been available since 2016 so the range is due for a facelift in 2020. The replacement series will begin being rolled out from 2023.

The current CLS-Class sedan made its world premiere at the LA auto show in November 2017. At that time, Mercedes-Benz told the media that the “four-door coupé will enter the market in March”. One of the biggest changes was to the car’s interior where, for the first time, this CLS became a five-seater. Also, the Shooting Brake was not replaced. This C219 series model should be facelifted in the second half of 2021 and then replaced in 2025. The architecture will be the same as what will underpin next year’s new S-Class.

The V-Class has been around for five years and has three+ years of its life cycle remaining. This successor to the Viano was revealed at a press preview event in Munich in January 2014 with the public debut being at the Geneva show two months later. The V-Class was launched in Europe in May 2014 (but 2015 for the UK) and is sold via passenger car and commercial vehicle sales channels.

This large MPV/minivan which can seat up to eight people, uses the same platform as the previous Viano. All launch versions had a (3,200mm) long wheelbase body, with the vehicle itself measuring 5,140mm end to end. Initial production began in Spain, with build in China added in March 2016 to replace the locally made Viano. China’s V-Class went on sale there in April 2016.

The US and Canadian markets have had their own variant since late 2015: the Mercedes-Benz Metris. So as to avoid the US’ so-called ‘chicken tax’, a 25% import duty, cargo versions of the Metris have their powertrains, fuel tanks and batteries taken out and shipped to the Daimler Vans plant in Ladson, South Carolina, for re-assembly. Passenger versions are not subject to the tax.

The Australian importer sells the passenger version of the V-Class as the Valente.

A facelifted V-Class range was announced to the media in January some five weeks ahead of its debut at the Geneva motor show. As well as the styling alterations, there were powertrain updates too. In North America, the revised Metris and V 250 d will be new for the Canadian/US and Mexican 2020 model years respectively.

Among the changes the diesel engine has been switched to Mercedes’ OM654, a four-cylinder unit which is compliant with the EC’s Euro 6d regulations. It is available with a choice of outputs and there are two variants, the (140kW/190hp & 440Nm) V 250 d as well as the more powerful (176kW/239hp & 500Nm) V 300 d. A V 220 d should follow later. Also, the former seven-speed automatic gearbox was replaced by one with nine ratios. LHD variants can be ordered with all-wheel drive too. The Vito (light commercial range) equivalents were announced in March with the facelifted V-Class going on sale from April. This should be the only facelift for the current generation, the successor being due in early 2023.

Next year’s new S-Class will be manufactured at the so-called ‘Factory 56’, a retooled and renamed production hall within the Sindelfingen manufacturing complex. This sedan, which will be built in two wheelbase lengths, will be the first vehicle for MSA, a new platform. The basic design will also see several other cars evolved from it, including a new large model for Mercedes-Maybach as well as the ‘EQS’, an electric sedan which will be discussed in additional detail in a report to come.

R232, the next SL-Class, should enter production at Sindelfingen in the third or fourth quarters of 2020. The life cycle should last until 2028 with a facelift in 2024.

Some sources believe that the eighth generation SL will be a 2+2 and therefore a challenger to the Porsche 911. And also that for the first time since the fourth generation model, that there will be a separate coupe variant. There are also rumours claiming that these cars are being engineered by AMG, not Mercedes-Benz and that the GT is to be the basis of the next generation SL. R232 is said to be breaking with tradition by being made into a supercar rather than a grand tourer.

Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE. That includes other Mercedes-Benz cars, including various plug-in hybrids as well as fuel cell models.

This was the second report in a series which looks at the passenger vehicle brands of Daimler AG. The first centred on Denza, smart and Mercedes-Maybach. The next one will be about Mercedes-Benz SUVs. This will be followed by a focus on Mercedes-AMG, and then finally, a close look at Mercedes-Benz EQ.