After years of back and forth over whether American luxury consumers were ready for the A-class small car, Mercedes- Benz will finally bring an A-class sedan to the U.S. in 2018.
Mercedes-Benz USA officials confirmed the car's arrival, slated for around September of next year, to U.S. dealers at a meeting in Miami this month, according to dealers who attended. Dealers saw the actual car, which was described to them as the brand's new entry-level model slotting below the CLA four-door coupe.
"It's a very nice-looking vehicle," said Ken Schnitzer, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz Dealer Board and owner of four Mercedes-Benz dealerships in Texas. "I'm sure it will be competitively priced."
The A-class sedan could start in the sub-$30,000 territory. The current base price of the CLA is $32,700 before shipping. When the CLA was introduced in 2013, it started at $29,900 before shipping.
"I'm very excited about it," said Jeff Aiosa, a Mercedes dealer in New London, Conn. "It just gives us another opportunity to bring that youthful buyer in and have them grow up with the brand. It looked like it would be very appealing to the millennial buyer."
Aiosa described the A-class sedan's interior as "cutting edge and techy." He said Mercedes could conquest more than half of the A-class sedan's buyers from other brands if the price came in just above or below the $30,000 mark.
Mercedes-Benz USA declined to comment on the A-class sedan or the dealer meeting. But the brand has been hinting at the coming vehicle.
In April at the Shanghai auto show, Mercedes unveiled the Concept A sedan, which it described as "providing an outlook of the next generation of compact vehicles and a potential new body type."
Mercedes is redesigning its A-class lineup, with sales expected in other markets next spring. The redesigned A class will be built on the company's MFA2 platform, an evolution of its Modular Front Architecture. That architecture underpins Mercedes' other small fwd vehicles, including the CLA and the GLA crossover.
Body type is a major reason Mercedes declined to bring the A class, introduced 20 years ago, to the U.S. before now. It had been sold in hatchback variants, a body style considered unpopular in the U.S. This will be the first A-class sedan variant, and it is also expected to be sold in China and other markets.
"We've learned from experience," Aiosa said, recalling a hatchback version of the C-class coupe, the C230, introduced in the U.S. in 2001. Its sales disappointed, and it was discontinued in this market. "Typically in North America, there isn't a big appetite for hatchback design in high-line luxury, specifically in our brand."
Stephanie Brinley, analyst with IHS Markit, said the industry forecaster also expects the A-class sedan to go on sale in the U.S. in September 2018. By 2020, the A class is forecast to be about 5 percent of the brand's U.S. sales.
"Mercedes-Benz has been successful increasing overall sales through model line expansion, and this will be another effort in that direction," Brinley said.
In addition to the A-class sedan, Mercedes also showed dealers a version of the AMG GT four-door high-performance sedan and confirmed to them that it will go on sale in the U.S. in the summer of 2018. Mercedes first unveiled the AMG GT concept at the Geneva auto show this year and called it a preview to a coming production vehicle. The sedan will join the brand's AMG GT sports car family to compete against vehicles like the Porsche Panamera. The name for the production AMG GT sedan is still undetermined.