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Auto blogWed, 09 Jul 2014 13:31:00 EST
Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz revealed the new V-Class. Slotting in below the popular Sprinter, the new V-Class replaced both the Viano and Vito upon its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. But Mercedes isn't quite done with it just yet. At the upcoming Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf, Germany, Mercedes will reveal the Marco Polo - a versatile, stylish and decidedly contemporary take on the classic camper van.
Named after the famous Italian explorer, the Marco Polo was converted by Westfalia, an outfit which you might more closely associate with classic VW camper vans but which Daimler absorbed over a decade ago. Offering, according to the press release below, "a maximum of opportunities to be independent, free and spontaneous," the Marco Polo sleeps four thanks to the rear bench that electrically folds flat into a bed and the second berth under the pop-top. The flexible interior is decked out like you'd expect a modern Mercedes to be, with ambient LED lighting as well as wood, metal and piano black trim.
It's got an onboard kitchenette with two gas burners, a sink and fridge with a 10 gallons of fresh water and an even bigger waste tank. All that gear is shlepped around by a choice of four-cylinder turbodiesel engines ranging in output from 136 to 190 horsepower. The relatively compact form boasts a turning circle similar to a full-size sedan and a height designed to fit into most garages and car washes. All of which just might make us reconsider the appeal of traveling by camper van.
Brazil is the place to be, apparently. Toyota has been investing in the South American country, as has BMW, which announced a $261 million investment in October 2012, on the heels of an Audi factory announcement in San José Chiapa. The high-end immigration is only set to continue, as Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar-Land Rover have both announced plans to set up manufacturing operations there.
Mercedes is the big news here, as its new facility will see the German manufacturer invest 170-million euros for production of its next-generation C-Class and upcoming GLA-Class. "Brazil is an important future market. With our local production we accept the challenge and take on the competition," noted Andreas Renschler, Management Board member for Production and Procurement at Mercedes-Benz Cars and Mercedes-Benz Vans. Production is expected to begin by 2016.
Jaguar-Land Rover, meanwhile, isn't so concrete in its plans. The news of its investment in South America comes from a job posting for a plant quality manager in Brazil that was picked up by the UK's AutoCar. "Portuguese language skills will be definite advantage" for interested candidates, according to the job listing. The want ad follows on the heels of remarks by Jaguar Land Rover's Dr. Ralph Speth, who said there are "very intensive discussions" with Brazil's government. Unlike Mercedes, there's no mention of which vehicles will be produced in South America, although AutoCar thinks the Freelander, sold in the US as the LR2, is a leading contender.
When you combine two billion citizens, 100 cities with more than a million inhabitants and an economy that's as unrestrained as Jim Cramer on an Adderall binge, China's explosive auto industry growth shouldn't be a huge surprise. Audi already lists the communist country as its largest market, while Mercedes-Benz is expecting it to be there in the next few years. Now, according to a report from Automotive News, BMW is expecting the People's Republic to overtake the United States in sales by the end of 2013.
We already discovered the extent that BMW is going to in establishing a dedicated Chinese stronghold, when we explored BMW's Shanghai-based DesignWorks studio ahead of April's Shanghai Motor Show. And while we argued that DesignWorks Shanghai hasn't really borne fruit, it isn't due to a lack of sales.
BMW China has seen a 16-percent jump in year-over-year sales, lead by a 28-percent gain in 5 Series sales. Part of BMW's growth strategy comes from an ever-expanding dealership network. Remember those 100 cities we mentioned with over one million people? According to Karsten Engel, CEO of BMW's Chinese operations, those 100-million-plus city dwellers don't have access to a premium dealership.