Mercedes E class undergoes major midcycle refresh
Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
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DETROIT -- Mercedes-Benz introduced an all-new car in a new segment and a restyled venerable E class today at the Detroit auto show.
But while Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche devoted one sentence to the all-new CLA compact sedan, he pulled out all the stops for a mid-cycle restyling of the high-volume E class sedan.
"The 'new E' delivers on its claim to be the best automobile in its segment," Zetsche said, pledging the car will "set a new standard with new engines, new exterior and interior look and new driver assistance systems – 11 in total."
Zetsche took the platform after Bruce Hornsby sang his hit, "Some things will never change" while playing a Steinway piano.
The choice of piano wasn't a coincidence. Playing up Daimler's U.S. heritage, Zetsche noted that the German automaker had started in America with an 1888 partnership between Gottlieb Daimler and New York piano magnate William Steinway.
And, Zetsche added dryly, at a "time that young Henry Ford was still working with very real horsepower, on his family farm."
On a more serious note, he noted that Daimler has committed $2.4 billion over several years to expand U.S. manufacturing for two new models and add 1,400 new jobs.
Mercedes-Benz sold 274,084 cars and light trucks in the 2012 U.S. market. Sister division Smart sold 10,009 units, a 92 percent jump.
The E class will have a new four-cylinder diesel option, plus an E 300 BlueTec Hybrid, the only diesel hybrid in the segment. It also has a radar-based collision warning system that can brake the car to reduce the severity of an impact.
The 2014 CLA compact is a new sedan with coupe-like styling similar to that of the larger CLS. Although it has a front-wheel-drive mechanical layout, the U.S. version of the CLA will come with all-wheel drive.
A look at Mercedes' latest U.S. sales results helps explain Zetsche's emphasis. Last year, Mercedes sold 8,000 CLS models and 65,000 E classes, second only to the smaller and less expensive C class.
Zetsche said: "The E class is one big reason Mercedes-Benz has been No. 1 in loyalty for luxury makes over the past six years."
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