ANALYSIS: Mercedes’ multi-model architecture future

By Glenn Brooks | 11 September 2014

C292, a version of this concept, will be made in the US from 2015

C292, a version of this concept, will be made in the US from 2015

Today's media release from Daimler is official confirmation that the Mercedes-Benz passenger cars division will leverage multiple architectures for its future models. But what will those vehicles be, and where will they be built?

Let’s start with smart. Plants in France and Slovenia are gearing up right now to commence building the new fortwo and forfour hatchbacks on the same rear-engined, rear-wheel drive Edison architecture, as developed by Daimler and Renault. The plug-in versions will come in 2015 and a Juke-sized crossover (‘formore’ or possibly ‘forsports’) will be added in 2016. Rather than Edison, that one will use a platform from the Renault-Nissan Alliance as the car will have its engine up front.

Giving smart a B-segment crossover means something in that category for Mercedes-Benz, the proposed X-Class, has been placed on hold. Sized just above the smart 4x4 is the existing GLA-Class. As it's still fresh, no replacement will appear until around 2021 and that will be on an evolution of the MFA platform. There will, however, be additional vehicles to be launched off MFA, including at least two for Infiniti: the Q30, a rival for the Audi A3 Sportback, and the QX30, which seeks to challenge the GLA and BMW’s next front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive X1. The next additional Mercedes-Benz to be based on MFA will be a Shooting brake version of the CLA-Class, which will be announced shortly and built in Hungary at Kecskemét.

As a reminder, MFA is already used for the A-, B-, CLA- and GLA-Classes, with those Infinitis to be added from the second half of 2015 (at Nissan GB's Sunderland plant). X247, a seven-seat SUV, should be the first vehicle for a stretched version of MFA. Place of build? Aguascalientes 2 would be the main contender. This plant is presently under construction with the first Mercedes model due off the line in 2018, a year after the initial production, an Infiniti. What will that be? QX40, which like the X247 ‘GLB-Class’ is being designed to attack the future Audi TT offroad (TTQ is the other likely model name). Q4 can't be used as that model name is owned by FCA.

Jumping up a size to the C-Class, the first additional model will be the MRA platform-based X253, the successor to the GLK-Class. For the first time, right-hand drive markets will receive this model, and the name changes to GLC-Class. Production will be in Germany (Bremen) and China (Beijing), with the possibility of US build (Tuscaloosa) later in the decade. The SLK replacement will also be linked to the C-Class but rather than MRA, R173 switches to a special sports car platform, MSA. This, the SLC-Class, should appear in 2018, with R232, the next SL-Class, to also use MSA.

The third generation of the CLS-Class is another model that’s due to have new badging. It too will be on MRA, with its name becoming CLE-Class (C219 sedan and X219 Shooting brake). The CLE is due to appear in 2017, a year after the arrival of the next E-Class. Build of the E sedan is set to commence at Sindelfingen in March 2016, with this model series the introductory one for a new range of six-cylinder petrol engines. Estate, coupe and convertibles will follow, as will build at plants in Bremen, Beijing and Chakan (India).

The S-Class, which was the first model for MRA, won’t hit mid-life until 2017 but that doesn’t mean there isn’t other development going on concerning the big sedan. We’ve seen the recent announcement of a new Guard (armoured version) with the next news to be a long wheelbase sedan that should revive Maybach as a model name, not a brand. That should be revealed at the LA and Guangzhou auto shows in November, with an even more lengthy Pullman model scheduled to be built by Brabus at its Bottrop factory from December 2015. The other additional car for this model series will be a convertible based on the new S-Class Coupe. It’s also on the way for 2015.

Three years on from the debut of the additional S-Class models, Mercedes-Benz will reveal the next edition of the full-sized GL-Class. So as to give it more cachet as a true Range Rover alternative, the model name should become GLS, the last letter meaning it should be seen as an S-Class SUV. X167 will again be made in the US. The current M is about to be facelifted but the name will remain for the next four years. Come 2018, however, it changes to GLE-Class with the debut of the next generation MHA architecture series. The production location should still be Tuscaloosa, with kits also being sent to India (CKD assembly), Thailand (SKD) and Indonesia (SKD).

One of the curiosities of Daimler’s model codes is cars which are not coupes may nonetheless be termed as such. This has applied to two generations of the CLS-Class and it’s also the case for C292, an SUV that will be made in the US from 2015. This additional model will debut the MHA architecture. It was previewed by the Concept Coupé at April 2014's Beijing motor show. The model name most likely will be GLE-Class Coupé. Think of it as what the BMW X6 is to the X5 so pricing will be higher than the M-Class but lower than the GL.

BMW made a point of reassuring its German unions with information about multiple future models for its German plants before news of an expansion in the US and a new factory for Mexico was announced. Daimler has done the same thing by issuing its latest press release concerning a three billion euro spend across several home market manufacturing locations.

What comes next will surely be some modest expansion in India and large scale investments for Beijing Benz’s production plants. There should also be more powertrain alliances with Nissan such as the one whereby C-Class and Infiniti sedan engines are sourced out of Decherd in Tennessee. Don’t forget about Iracemápolis in Brazil either - it’s due to open in 2016 and will make the GLA- and C-Class but its initial capacity of 20,000 units/annum will probably be a lot higher than that as this decade turns into the next one. 

Other selected future models: