Don't worry, Mercedes isn't going too small

NEW YORK -- Mercedes-Benz is going small, but not too small, says its new U.S. chief.

A concept four-door with sporty coupe styling will be shown in Los Angeles later this month. It will be a preview of the new A/B compact vehicles the automaker will begin selling in the United States starting late next year, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon said yesterday at the New York auto show.

The new four-door reportedly will be called the CLC -- a name Cannon would not confirm.

It's new territory for Mercedes-Benz, a brand synonymous with large and spacious luxury sedans.

But this new family of cars on a new platform won't be competing with the Fiat 500 or the Mini Cooper hardtop, Cannon said.

The first car will only be "a couple of inches" smaller than the C class, he said.

The C-class sedan and coupe are about 181 inches long. The Fiat 500 is 139.6 inches long.

But even aside from being a couple of inches shorter than the C class, the new four-door will be different enough to draw customers who normally wouldn't have considered or bought a Mercedes, Cannon said.

For Mercedes, getting small right will be big a feat.