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Mercedes-Benz confirms baby SUV

SUV savvy: Mercedes-Benz will produce a compact luxury SUV based on the MFA underpinnings shared with the new A-Class, pictured rolling off the Rastatt line in Germany earlier today.

Australia odds-on to get small Benz ‘GLA’ SUV as Zetsche confirms production

17 Jul 2012

DAIMLER chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz cars Dieter Zetsche has confirmed the company will produce a compact SUV based on the MFA platform that underpins the A-Class and B-Class.

Speaking at an event marking the first new-generation A-Class to roll off the production line at the Rastatt factory located 90km west of Stuttgart, Dr Zetsche revealed “the compact SUV will be the third model we will build here in Rastatt”.

Mercedes-Benz Australia corporate communications senior manager David McCarthy told GoAuto the local operation is “absolutely” interested in importing the baby SUV, which will go head-to-head with the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque.

Mr McCarthy said the SUV, likely to be badged GLA, is expected to emerge at a motor show around mid-2013, which could suggest Shanghai or New York, both of which take place in late April.

In addition to the A-Class, B-Class and compact SUV, Benz has confirmed a coupe and another yet to be announced “sporty and emotive” vehicle will be built on the MFA platform across production facilities at Rastatt and the new Kecskemet plant that recently opened in Hungary, 90km south-east of Budapest.

4 center imageFrom top: Mercedes-Benz B-Class production A-Class production.

Confirmed for production and slated to debut at the Paris show in September is the CLA, a coupe-styled four-door that will resemble the Compact Style Coupe concept Benz unveiled at Beijing in April and will serve as a compact cousin to the E-Class-based CLS.

Overseas reports suggest the CLA is likely to spawn a Shooting Brake wagon variant like its bigger CLS brother, but there is also a chance the fifth MFA variant could be a sedan version of the A-Class aimed at the US and Chinese markets.

A hot AMG version of the A-Class has been confirmed, powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine producing more than 400Nm of torque, to do battle with the BMW M135i hatch, which uses a turbocharged six-cylinder producing 235kW and 450Nm.

The same engine is likely to make its way under the bonnet of the CLA and any Shooting Brake derivative, but prospects of a hot GLA SUV are doubtful.

Given the recent backtracking of Volkswagen and Porsche over production of a compact roadster, a sub-SLK roadster or coupe is unlikely.

Mercedes says it has taken more than 40,000 orders for the A-Class since order books opened a month ago and more than 70,000 units of the new B-Class have been delivered since its global debut in November last year.

Demand for compact Benz models has been such that from October a third shift will start at Rastatt, where 500 new jobs have been created this year.

Daimler is investing €1.2 billion ($A1.44 billion) in the Ratstatt plant, half of which has already been spent constructing a new bodyshell production building and purchasing the necessary tooling, with the rest allocated to modifying the body assembly line and equipment installations.

A further €400 million will be invested in engine and component production plants.

Daimler board member for Mercedes-Benz cars and vans with responsibility for manufacturing and procurement, Wolfgang Bernhard, said the modular MFA platform enables the company to “produce all models of our new compacts on the same production line at the respective site”.

The A-Class, B-Class and GLA will be produced at Rastatt, with the CLA and the mystery fifth model to be built at Kecskemet alongside the B-Class.

The new A-Class will launch Down Under in the first quarter of next year.

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