Mercedes expects to sell 15,000 M-class units in Germany

Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz plans to sell more than 15,000 units of its new M-class SUV in Germany alone in its first full production year in 2006, said Joachim Schmidt, the brand's former head of sales and marketing.

At a basic price of 46,300 euros, the new M class will cost 3 percent more than the current model.

M-class buyers will be offered an off-road technology package costing 1,900 euros with air suspension and optional differential locks.

"The new M class is a quantum leap from its predecessor," said Schmidt.

The basic version weighs 50kg less than the previous model. Engine options include 272-hp and 306-hp gasoline units, and 190-hp and 224-hp diesel motors.

Mercedes has three additionally models near to launch. The new B class will go on sale in June, followed by the new S-class sedan on Sept. 24.

The R-class sport wagon crossover, which like the M class will be built at Mercedes' Tuscaloosa plant in the United States, will be launched in Europe early 2006.

The planned total annual output for the Tuscaloosa plant is 150,000 units.

Schmidt will soon take up a new post with Mercedes. Klaus Maier, who was previously head of Mercedes-Benz's Europe and Latin America trucks business, became the brand's head of sales and marketing on April 1.

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