Mercedes hopes GLK will bring in first-time customers

With the BMW X3 eating up the small luxury SUV market and with the introduction of Infiniti’s EX last week, Mercedes is getting ready to launch its small GLK SUV in 2009.

“There is one SUV segment that is exploding with growth, and that is the small or entry SUV,” Bernhard Glasser, head of product management at Mercedes-Benz USA, told Automotive News.

Mercedes’ SUV sales accounted for 29.1 percent of total U.S. sales so far for 2007, up from 11.9 percent 10 years ago when Mercedes launched its first SUV, the M class. Glasser pointed to Lexus as an example of an automaker with a strong percentage of light-truck sales. With that in mind, Glasser says the percentage of Mercedes-Benz SUVs are likely to increase.

Mercedes is hoping that the GLK will lure in first time buyers. “If you look at our lineup, our gateway into the brand is the C class starting at $31,000,” Glasser said. “We have another conquest opportunity on the SUV side. With the new addition of the GLK, we will have a high conquest rate and bring in first-time Mercedes buyers.”

This isn’t Mercedes-Benz’s first try at the compact SUV market. In 2005, it killed the Smart ForMore SUV that was targeted at Toyota’s RAV4 and Ford’s Escape. Of course, that was a whole different game.

Mercedes plans on building 80,000 SUVs a year, with half of those expected to make it to the U.S. shores. Glasser says the GLK will be placed below the M-Class with a starting price of somewhere between $33,000 to $35,000.

The Mercedes-Benz GLK will makes its official debut in January at the Detroit Auto Show with sales to begin in late 2008 in Europe. U.S. sales will begin several months later.


Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)

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