Why did Mercedes-Benz wait to launch the GLE Coupe? Kurz said the brand’s priority was to first develop more volume at the bottom of its product range with new compacts including the compact B-class Electric Drive, CLA sedan and GLA crossover.
“When BMW launched its vehicle we watched, but we had a different focus at the time,” Kurz said. “Now, we have the opposite, we are doing the GLE Coupe, and other manufacturers are doing vehicles that look a bit like the B class.”
Mercedes-Benz could quickly and cost-effectively develop the Coupe variant because the two GLEs share the same body structure underneath the sheet metal and the same front-end sheet metal but different sides and windows, said Kurz: “We found a very cost-efficient way to make the GLE Coupe.”
Kurz did not project sales volume for the GLE Coupe but said, “if you look at BMW figures, our expectations would be similar because we are in the same market segments.”
The BMW X6 went on sale in 2008, and U.S. sales peaked at 6,749 in 2012. BMW has sold 40,488 X6s in the United States since 2008.
The Mercedes-Benz factory near Tuscaloosa, Ala., can produce 200,000 crossovers annually and has the flexibility to shift production to meet demand, Kurz said. The plant makes both GLEs and the larger GLS crossover.
China will be the biggest market for the GLE Coupe, accounting for 30 to 40 percent of annual sales, followed by the U.S., with 20 to 30 percent, Kurz said.
“The vehicle will perform better than expected in the U.S.,” he said.
The GLE and GLE Coupe share an architecture with the larger GL crossover that is being renamed the GLS and freshened this fall, said Kurz. They do not share an architecture with the E- and S-class passenger cars but are similar in size, said Kurz. The crossovers do share components with the passenger cars to save cost, he said.
The 2016 GLE got a midcycle freshening with an updated front end and new front and rear lights. The two GLEs do not share an A pillar -- the Coupe is angled 1 degree more.
“The driver seat is even in the same position, but the center of gravity in the Coupe is lower,” Kurz said.