Distant relations – real distant

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

It's doubtful whether consumers would pick up on this, but Mercedes-Benz is being careful to keep maximum distance between its upcoming 2012 M class and the all-new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The new-generation M class and the new Jeep shared a spot on the DaimlerChrysler drawing board before Daimler AG separated from Chrysler in 2007.

The 2011 Grand Cherokee is built in Detroit and went on sale a year ago. It has become a cornerstone of Chrysler's revival, with sales surging 114 percent this year through June.

The M class, built in Alabama, goes on sale this summer.

The vehicles were conceived at the same time, and they are similar in dimensions and in wheelbase, but they don't share any hardware, said Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA.

"It's not even a question of 'separated at birth,'" he said Monday at a press introduction in Montana for the 2012 M class. "They were separated before birth."

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