VERONA, Italy - Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc. expects to sell about 1,500 CLK coupes this year and more than 7,000 in 1998 as part of a comeback of the segment for coupes and convertibles priced from $28,000 to $55,000.
Wayne Killen, Mercedes-Benz of North America's product manager for roadsters and coupes, said the segment for sports cars, luxury coupes and convertibles is expanding because of a flood of new products.
The segment fell from 207,000 units in 1990 to less than 156,000 in 1996, mostly at the expense of the Big 3 and Japanese manufacturers. But Mercedes expects the group to bounce back to 168,000 units this year and to 195,000 by 2000, mostly from import entries, he said.
At a press preview here, Killen said the CLK, which will be priced around $40,000, is aimed at three target markets in the United States:
1. 'Coupe loyalists' who would also consider the BMW 3 series; owners of the old Mercedes 300 series; and domestic competitors like the Cadillac Eldorado and Lincoln Mark VIII.
2. 'Migrators' from the Lexus SC 300 or SC 400 and the Volvo C70 coupe.
3. Baby boomers who want to reward themselves.
The CLK went on sale in Europe in March, and is expected to go on sale in October in the United States and Japan.
It is the first Mercedes coupe since the mid-1930s not based on a sedan.
Killen also disclosed that Mercedes will rename its S-class coupes, giving them CL designations as part of a new product strategy.
Thus, the S500 will become the CL500 and the S600 becomes the CL600.