ANTIBES, France - DaimlerChrysler expects to double its luxury coupe sales with the launch of the new Mercedes-Benz CL.
Juergen Hubbert, the management board member for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, said the new CL is much more than a coupe body on an S-class platform - a criticism sometimes leveled at the last CL.
'We wanted to do more than just cut the roof line off the S class,' Hubbert said. 'The car makes its own statement.'
The launch of the new CL500 and CL600 marks Mercedes-Benz's re-entry into the top end of the luxury coupe segment.
For the first time, big money has been spent on the car. The technical department had a budget of $263 million. Another $80 million was invested in new tooling and machinery. All body parts are unique to the CL.
'The CL features lightweight construction, which contributes to a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy,' Hubbert said. Fuel consumption is 17.8 mpg for the CL500 and slightly less for the CL600.
The new CL weighs up to 4,136 pounds, about 748 pounds lighter than its predecessor. It uses a host of lightweight materials, including aluminum, magnesium, plastic and high-strength steel.
Several innovative features help save weight. The trunk lid is made of fiber-reinforced plastic. This material makes it possible to build the antennas for the phone and navigation system invisibly into the lid.
The doors are made from an alloy-magnesium compound. They are 34 percent lighter than the sheet steel doors of the previous model.
'With the CL, we have taken driving dynamics a further step forward with the world premiere of active body control,' Hubbert said. 'By countering body pitch, bounce and roll, this system gives the car superb, sporty handling. It also offers a considerable improvement in ride comfort.'
Active body control is standard on the CL and will be available as an option on the S class in January.
The CL500 and CL600 deliver impressive performance data. Top speed is limited to 155 mph. But the CL600 can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 6.1 seconds. The CL500 is not far behind at 6.5 seconds. An AMG version will follow in mid-2000.
'We have invested a considerable amount of money in the new CL, much more than the previous-generation car,' Hubbert said. 'Given its technical features and visual qualities, our ambitions for the new model have risen significantly,' he said. 'We want to double sales over the CL's life span and gain a 30 percent market share at the top end of the luxury segment.'
MORE CL500 SALES
The CL's expected life span is about eight years. Sales of 50,000 to 60,000 units are planned during this period. Eighty percent of customers are expected to opt for the CL500.
Nine thousand cars will be built in the first full year of production. Germany will receive 4,000 units, and the United States nearly 3,000. The previous-generation CL sold 26,000 units.
Mercedes-Benz regards Aston Martin, the Jaguar XK and Porsche 911 as competitors.
'We are emphasizing the sporty aspects of the CL,' said Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes-Benz's head of sales and marketing.