Mercedes to debut BMW X6 rival

The Mercedes Concept Coupe has a roofline that plunges downward toward the rear of the car. It has a wide front grille, narrow headlights and creases on the flanks.

MUNICH -- Mercedes-Benz is set to preview an upcoming rival to the BMW X6 with the Concept Coupe SUV, which debuts at the Beijing auto show later this month.

The concept is a coupe version of the ML SUV and is set to go on sale as a production model next year badged as the MLC. It likely to be built at Mercedes' U.S. factory in Vance, Ala.

"We see a great deal of potential for Mercedes-Benz in the combination of a coupe and SUV," said Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes' parent, Daimler, in a statement issued at the company's annual shareholders meeting today.

"The sportily styled coupe study with the added value of an SUV provides a realistic glimpse of a series-production vehicle expected next year, which will boast very dynamic handling," Zetsche said.

Daimler is unveiling the concept in China, a market crucial to Zetsche's target for Mercedes to pass BMW and Audi in global deliveries by the end of the decade.

The country is Mercedes' second-largest single market after the United States. First-quarter sales of Mercedes and Smart cars in China were up by 48 percent to 67,058 vehicles, compared with the same period in 2013, according to the company. Sales in the United States rose 5 percent to 72,614.

Daimler and joint-venture partner Beijing Automotive Group are investing 1 billion euros ($1.37 billion) to more than double Mercedes-Benz production capacity at their Beijing plant to keep pace with rising demand.

The factory, which builds the C-class and E-class sedans and GLK SUV, will be able to produce more than 200,000 autos in 2015 and may be expanded further if sales continue to surge. The plant will add assembly of the GLA compact SUV next year.

Daimler completed the purchase last November of a 12 percent stake in the BAIC Motor unit of Beijing Automotive for 625 million euros.

The automaker in 2012 announced a reorganization of its China operations that included naming Hubertus Troska, a former truck-division executive, to Daimler's management board as chief for the country, adding dozens of dealerships, opening the company's first engine factory outside Germany in Beijing and merging the sales entities.

Bloomberg contributed to this report

You can reach Paul McVeigh at pmcveigh@crain.com

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