Some people are raising concerns that the new Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class will take away some of the mystique behind owning a Mercedes-Benz. The idea is that when you make an “affordable” Mercedes-Benz, the brand no longer has that reputation of being the brand exclusively owned by the wealthy. But is that really the case? Will having a $29,990 Mercedes-Benz ruin the brand’s reputation for making high-quality cars? Mercedes-Benz says, No.
Mercedes is counting on the CLA to “recalibrate the value perception” and expects a base price below $30,000 to draw in new customers, even those with thin credit histories. “We are working with Mercedes-Benz Finance to understand this customer to make sure we can get them into the car and get them into the brand and that credit history, or lack of credit history, doesn’t hurt them,” says M. Bart Herring, general manager-product management for MBUSA. Herring discounts concerns that opening the brand to lower-income buyers will deplete the brand’s exclusivity. “What we love about the opportunity to get those customers in there is we have a great product and a great dealer network,” Herring says of Mercedes’ 359 U.S. stores.
Ford or Toyota customers may have enjoyed their dealership experiences, he says, “but it’s not a luxury experience. We don’t see a lot of downside if you do it right.” However, doing it wrong is a big mistake, he admits. “If we had a product where we said we did everything to get it to $29,990 and we skimped on some things, that’s where the risk would be. When we first had the idea to offer the platform in the U.S., the primary directive was it’s got to be every bit of a Mercedes-Benz. No one can say ever that it would be less than that.”
Tom Murphy in Brand-Expanding CLA Arriving in U.S. Mercedes Showrooms
Until people started talking about this, I never thought about the brand’s image being tarnished. Sure, the brand is known as a luxury marque with few equals. But the CLA-Class is a great car and it’s priced to attract new customers. If you ask me, that’s a good idea especially as other luxury brands are already tapping into that market. And being that I work at a Mercedes-Benz and Volvo dealership, I hope that it works.