We could have beaten BMW X6 to market, says Benz


MERCEDES-Benz had considered an SUV-coupe type vehicle in the mid 2000s, before BMW launched the X6, but chose instead to channel its financial and R&D resources into the bigger volume A-Class and its derivatives before the GLE Coupe.

"We looked into that [type of] vehicle at that time," said Wolf-Dieter Kurz, vice-president of SUVs and sports cars at Mercedes-Benz, "and said 'let's invest the money differently to give us the wider portfolio base than just investing in the niche'. 

Kurz made the comment at the launch of the new GLE replacement for the ML-class SUV, and the sloped roof GLE Coupe offshoot, a rival for the BMW X6. He said the decision to hold off on the GLE Coupe came down to money.

"On one end of course it's a financial issue, on the other even more it's a question of capacity. Where do you put your R&D guys, in which type of vehicle type to be developed? A new vehicle development costs the same whether you do a vehicle which has 100,000 units in its life cycle or a million. 

"And so for us it was important to expand the A-class portfolio with the GLA [compact SUV], CLA [four-door coupe] and also now the CLA Shooting Brake [wagon]. 

"[That was] our focus and I think we were very successful in doing so. And now ... we are coming with a model which is the SUV coupe, [at a time when] other manufacturers are coming with models which look similar to the B-class," said Kurz, clearly alluding to the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.

He said Mercedes-Benz is not actually targeting 100,000 sales annually for the GLE Coupe. "No, I just use choose round figures [to illustrate]."

The Mercedes-Benz GLE wagon and GLE Coupe arrive in Australia in September. An embargo prevents Wheels from revealing pricing and specification at this time, or from reporting on our first drive this week at the international launch in Austria. 

The embargo lifts on June 23.

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