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Auto blogWed, 28 Aug 2013 09:29:00 EST
Mercedes-Benz is preparing a major product offensive to counteract lagging sales in the Chinese market, aiming 20 new or updated models at the People's Republic in the next two years, according to a report by Reuters. The plan is part of MB's so-called 2020 Initiative, which will see the Stuttgart-based manufacturer dump 2 billion Euros ($2.67 billion) into its Chinese market vehicles in a bid to boost sales to 300,000 units by 2015.
Were it to succeed, China would become the largest market for the Silver Arrow, outpacing Germany and the United States. Leading the charge will be the redesigned E-Class, which is set to launch in China this week. That will quickly be followed by the S-Class, and eventually by the GLA-Class in 2014.
Mercedes has struggled in China, especially relative to its German competition, BMW and Audi. Where Mercedes saw a mere four-percent increase in 2012 sales to 206,150 units, Audi was up a staggering 32 percent, while BMW's numbers jumped 41 percent. While some voices, according to Reuters, accuse Munich and Ingolstadt of boosting their numbers through hefty incentives, the fact remains that Mercedes was just walloped by its competitors last year.
Looks like another Tesla Motors investor will be looking to cash in on their connection. Autoweek reports Mercedes-Benz will offer their B-Class in the U.S. with Tesla propulsion.
The magazine says their source at the German automaker confirms plans for a B-Class electric-only vehicle. While Tesla already provides battery packs for the battery-powered Smart ForTwo, the B-Class EV will reportedly have Tesla batteries, motor and other components. U.S. residents should be able to procure one sometime in 2014.
The same Mercedes source says plans for a hybrid B-Class have been postponed for now. Adding a range-extending, gasoline-powered engine to an electric vehicle would put the car into a different class for which rebates and incentives aren't as favorable in the States.
By the end of this year, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter will be the second-oldest nameplate in its segment here in the States, but with hot new competition waiting in the wings, Mercedes-Benz is giving its hauler a freshened look and more equipment to stave off rivals. The Sprinter was a pioneer in bringing Euro-style delivery vans to North America, and it's inspired others to transplant their Continental offerings, with the all-new Ford Transit and Ram Promaster models launching shortly. It will also continue to do battle with lower-cost traditional competitors like the Chevrolet Express and Ford E-Series.
The big Sprinter will thus get a new look to go with more safety features and available technology. While the information released here technically covers the Euro-spec 2013 Sprinter (which goes on sale in September), the US market is expected to get the new Sprinter for the 2014 model year with many of the same features. Some of this new technology includes a Crosswind Assist feature as standard equipment and the availability of Collision Prevention Assist and Blind Spot Assist as optional safety measures - Mercedes-Benz says that all three are firsts for any van in the world. Also added to the updated Sprinter is a new 1.8-liter supercharged gasoline (or CNG) engine producing 156 horsepower, which will complement the line of diesel engines that carry over and help make the Sprinter the first cargo van to meet the upcoming Euro VI emissions standards. Additionally, a lower ride height is said to improve fuel economy and should improve handling while aiding ingress and egress for both people and cargo.
In terms of styling, the Sprinter's new face also looks more like the current line of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. This includes a more upright grille along with changes to the hood, headlights and bumper that lend it a closer kinship to models like the CLS-Class and the updated E-Class. The Sprinter will offer both halogen and HID headlights, while the latter will get LED running lamps and offer Highbeam Assist. The images shown here only reveal the exterior from front angles, but it looks like few, if any, changes have been made to the rear of the van. Interior upgrades include a thicker steering wheel, a new shift lever and the latest in audio, navigation and entertainment systems. Scroll down for the official press release for the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.