It’s most definitely a heavy week for automotive news, and Mercedes-Benz is not sitting idly by without making a few headlines of its own. The German luxury car maker has announced some significant shakeups to its lineup, all in an effort to gain more market share and appeal to new customers. Additions to the company’s slate include a new plug-in hybrid and a new fixation on the SUV market.
Headlining the company’s announcements is a new member of the the C-Class — the C450 AMG 4MATIC. Sporting an all-wheel drive system and an advanced suspension system borrowed from the AMG C63, the C450 AMG will also have a 362-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, just like the new GLE 450 AMG (we’ll get to that in a minute). The new C-Class addition is expected to hit American markets in late 2015, when Mercedes hopes to help satisfy the American need for speed, and appeal to our love of the race track.
“It combines the power of a strong twin-turbo V6 engine with a high level of emotional expressiveness, and avails itself of the technical DNA of the new C63,” says Tobias Moers, chairman of the board of management of Mercedes-AMG. “The new sports models represent a convincing proposition for our customers: sports car technology and motor racing fascination become more attainable and in the process appeal to a broader customer base.”
Moving on to the luxury SUV market, Mercedes is adding some significant skin in the game. The Detroit News is reporting that Mercedes will release not one, but four new SUVs this year, in an effort to capitalize on the expanding market for luxury utility vehicles. The additions will include two GLE coupes — the GLE 63 AMG and the GLE 450 AMG. Let’s see if we can dig up some quick sales growth stats here.
“The timing is just right,” said Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche. “The market for SUVs is only getting stronger.”
Zetsche and the rest of his cohorts at Mercedes are apparently not kidding around, either. Let’s introduce the car more first. What it is, and where it competes. The GLE nameplate is new. The GLE 63 AMG will feature a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, which will produce 577 horsepower. The GLE 450 AMG is not as powerful, but impressive nonetheless, with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 producing 362 horsepower. Both SUVs can sprint from zero to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds.
But Mercedes didn’t stop with there. The final big piece of news coming out of the Mercedes camp was the announcement of a new plug-in hybrid. The new vehicle is also a member of the C-Class, a C350 Plug-in Hybrid, which uses the same technology that has previously debuted in the S-Class.
The C350 Plug-in Hybrid will use an electric motor combined with a four-cylinder gasoline engine to produce 275 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, and will have an electric-only range of 20 miles. The C350 hybrid will also be heading to dealerships in late 2015, giving consumers plenty of time to mull over the decision of whether or not it’s right for them. If not, it sounds like there are plenty more options in the pipeline.
“The Plug-in Hybrid is an investment in the future of Mercedes-Benz and we believe it will become established as the successful technology for maximum efficiency coupled with powerful dynamic performance,” says Mercedes’s own Professor Dr. Thomas Weber. “We will be launching ten new Plug-in Hybrid models up to 2017.”
What’s also clear is that Mercedes is gearing up to meet one of its biggest rivals in the luxury market, BMW, head on. As Bloomberg reports, BMW has been the leader in the luxury vehicle segment for a solid decade now, and Audi has been hot on their heels. Mercedes, on the other hand, has been playing catch-up.
Not only does Mercedes need to find ways to match up to both of those automakers, but also to fend off the new player to the game, Tesla. It’s because of Tesla — or at least in part — that the emphasis on hybrid and electric vehicle technology has become so important over the past few years. Seeing as how Tesla has been able to come into the market and steal a rather significant amount of market share, the rest of the luxury segment has had to act fast to stop the bleeding. Possibly another big threat to Mercedes are BMW’s latest electric offerings, the i3 and i8, both revealing themselves to be yet another thorn in the company’s side.
The result has been a slew of new hybrid and electric cars from almost every luxury car brand out there. And just as Mercedes has announced, it’s about to unleash a salvo of new vehicles to put itself in an even better position to compete. It seems that Mercedes may try to be edging out BMW’s hybrid lineup by sheer volume alone. Audi has also unveiled plans for an extensive electric lineup, which Mercedes will need to find a successful way to counter on the market. A big reason for all of this, of course, are the increasing fuel economy standards and regulations.
For automakers, it looks like an all-out skirmish is set to break out in the luxury segment. For consumers, competition and fresh model releases look to drive prices down, and offer a huge range of selection. By retooling its existing lineup, Mercedes looks set to battle BMW, Audi, and the rest of the luxury market over the next few years, and the company is hoping that SUVs and plug-in hybrids will lift them to victory.