Mercedes Culling Coupes and Wagons
Stuttgart is catching up with Detroit.
Car and Driver (“Mercedes-Benz Set to Kill Most Coupes and Wagons“):
In May 2022, Mercedes-Benz outlined its latest long-term strategic plan, which involves drastically resizing and reshaping its massive product portfolio to move even further upmarket and become even more profitable. At the time, the automaker did not give a full explanation of how it plans to do so, but now we have a much clearer idea of what’s destined for the guillotine and what new models we can expect.
Only 14 of 33 Body Styles Will Survive
We talked to several top managers in Untertürkheim and Sindelfingen to find out exactly why they believe that wagons, coupes, and convertibles have an uncertain future—or no future at all. Apparently, it has to do with the brand’s new understanding of luxury. Mercedes intends to tailor its future products to prepare them for extended personalized mobility services, ease the pressure on the driver, and redefine creature comfort as a key brand value. The new model mix may boost profits, but it contains fewer emotional products. Based on what we’ve seen, of the 33 body styles Mercedes currently offers between Europe and the U.S., only 14 will survive.
So, 14 body styles is still a lot! And 33 as almost intuitively too many. Regardless, Mercedes is simply following the larger trends in the industry.
“At the end of the day, we simply don’t need estate cars [wagons] or underperforming two-door offerings to boost volumes,” a senior member of Mercedes-Benz’s strategy team told Car and Driver. “The most essential elements of sustainable contemporary luxury cars are space and time . . . That’s our number one priority—not another fancy body style, a model that only works in Europe, or one last stab at a dying segment.”
The C-class and E-class coupes and convertibles will cease to exist sometime between 2023 and 2024, to be replaced by a pair of two-door CLE-class models. Current coupe-like SUVs and sedans aren’t long for this world, either. The CLS-class will depart in 2024, and the sharper AMG GT 4 Door will follow along in 2024 or 2025. New generations of GLE and GLC Coupes will debut in the coming years, but after that, their lineages will also end.
It probably doesn’t make much sense for Mercedes to compete in the relatively small market for smallish coupes and convertibles. Audi and BMW are much better positioned in the luxury end of that market, Porsche and others are better positioned in the sporty end, and the likes of Mazda and Honda are better positioned in the cheaper end.
Goodbye to the Shooting Brake
Things are more dire for fans of wagons and shooting brakes in Europe. The Europe-market C-class wagon will be gone after 2028. Later this year, we’ll see the next-generation E-class, which will spawn the automaker’s last wagon, bidding farewell at the end of its production run in 2030. The next-gen CLA-class, which will ride on the MMA electric platform and is due to debut in 2025, will be the brand’s last shooting brake (in Europe).
There are still some interesting vehicles on the horizon, though. Later this year, Mercedes-AMG will launch the new GT coupe; it will be based on the current SL roadster, which will also expand its lineup with a new Maybach offering. In 2026, we will see a new four-door coupe, as well as a next-generation SL with more cargo and rear-seat space, and a new AMG GT coupe, all of which will be electric. And speaking of EVs, the MMA platform will also serve as the backbone for a chunky GLG-class SUV in 2026.
While the Mercedes wagon is iconic, it seems like a relic of the 1980s, if not earlier. The company began making SUVs down the road from me at the University of Alabama while I was still in grad school in the 1990s and is very competitive in that space, which has long filled the niche once filled by wagons.
While BMW and Audi are the obvious choices for those who want a Teutonic sports sedan, Mercedes is still synonymous with luxury. And their new leadership is doubling down on that:
As this new group steps into the spotlight, we can expect to see more capacious batteries (up to 150.0 kWh), power outputs approaching quadruple digits, and maximum ranges pushing toward the 500-mile mark on the European WLTP cycle. Maximum charging speeds should expand to 270 kilowatts, too, thanks to a greater reliance on 800-volt electrical systems.
AMG Getting More Attention
Since Mercedes-Benz’s more exclusive corners will be prioritized going forward, we can expect to see a greater focus on AMG models, as well as Maybach—in fact, there is even talk of an ultra-ritzy V-class van. The wildest creations, though, will come from the OEM’s new Mythos series of hyper-expensive collectibles. There are some very intriguing propositions here, including a Gullwing reincarnation, a four-door G-class pickup truck, and a racy speedster based on the SL.
I don’t have Maybach or AMG money but those are some great vehicles.
Looks to me like the trend is that Mercedes is seeing a world where the top quartile (or quintile, sestile, or septile) own and purchase new automobiles and the crackers ride public conveyances and the lucky ones have cars for trips to where trains don’t go. American transportation infrastructure will have to change if this trend takes hold. I lived without a car for 8 years in Korea. I managed to go 4 months when I returned to the states and most of that 4 months, I was staying in Metro Portland, Oregon.
It’s gonna be a different world from the one I grew up in. I wonder if it will work as well though. 🙁
Am temporarily located in south SF bay. Little article in local news of the ‘Murky News’ (San Jose’s daily Mercury News).
An Aviation co just leased lots local office space.
Counter to this area recent trends. What are they up to?
Seems they’re seeking FAA certs for a 4passenger, piloted VTOL machine to be marketed as taxis in major urban areas.
We are living in the future
I’ll tell you how I know
I read it in a comic book
15 years ago
Marketing. What is that even supposed to mean? But I will note the couple of times a year I see a Mercedes station wagon my reaction is, “They still make those!”
I’m on my second E-Class convertible. This is tragic news.
I’ve had Audis and they are great cars. But it’s always been the Mercs for me. Drove my Dad’s old 1950’s 180 around Terceira Island, wrecked a gold 1963 S-Class in Long Beach. When I ended the fugitive years and could finally after two decades have a car, I bought a brand-new, 2001, black S-Class. God I loved that car. There followed a 2014 E-class Cabriolet, then my current 2020 E-Class Cabriolet.
The center will not hold. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards my garage, waiting to be driven? Ah, crap, it’s a BMW.
The car market strikes as nonfunctional. By that I mean that it appears that many people buy cars based on considerations of functionality or analysis of cost efficiency. Recently, three friends and I needed to travel to a place that did not have four lane, smoothly paved road for the whole trip. Two of my friends were very eager to use their super crewcab F150. Both of them are middle aged professionals who are empty nesters living in an urban environment. These fine vehicles sit 23 hours a day and for one hour a day transport one person to work 280 days a year. Both of them were vying for a chance to actually use their big trucks. My neighbors have SUVs that never see anything more wild than a shopping center parking lot. Yes, the younger ones do have pickups that haul their mountain bikes to a trail head.
It is hard to think of the appropriate mix of car types that Mercedes should be making since no one actually needs a Mercedes. I don’t mean that they aren’t beautiful and desirable, but they simply are not necessary. They are Veblen goods, and their best marketing strategy is to seek identification with some athlete or scantily clad person who we all love.
I, for one, would gladly pay $100,000 for a 1956 gullwing 300 SL, but the market has them at 20 times that amount.
A while ago the Car, the UK auto enthusiast magazine had a cri du coeur bemoaning the dumbing down of automotive design. There are a number of reasons for this and it has been going on for a long time, but certainly the disappearance of sedans, coupes, and convertibles is one of them.
Regarding MB specifically, IMHO, Mercedes cars are among the styling leaders, but their fleet of CUV’s/SUV’s are among the most boring appearing vehicles in the industry. I’ll make an exception for the Gelandewagen, but that is a design from a different era, the 1970’s/80’s and for a different purpose, military use.
Given that BMW has already dropped the 2-series convertible and MB has always sold more coupes & convertibles in the US than BMW, it won’t be a surprise when BMW withdraws from that market.
Taste is taste, and there is no accounting for it, so this isn’t meant to disparage other people’s choices, but I absolutely cannot fathom why people like to drive these big honking vehicles. I used to travel a lot and so did a lot of rentals. For a variety of reasons my most recent rentals have all been full size SUV’s. Given this background, I’m pretty familiar with the driving and handling characteristics of a wide variety of cars and SUV’s. Right now we own two cars: a 2015 Mini Cooper and a brand new 2023 Subaru Outback which is essentially an SUV. Although the Suburban is much fancier then the Mini and handles as well as any of the other similarly sized cars I’ve driven, it’s basically a boat. The Mini is just nimble and quick and effortlessly maneuverable and I like driving it so much more and feel much safer in it. I just don’t get the appeal of these large vehicles except for young families with more than 4 people, or construction workers.
A Mercedes pickup sounds super tacky to me
@Stormy Dragon: As crazy as a Mercedes pickup sounds, Land Rover is, to me, the real example of a luxury car playing pretend. I have to admit that it is based on my experience in Africa in the late 80’s but the consensus among local people who made their living by driving passengers or supplies was to avoid it at all costs. The British government had donate many of them over the years, but most were off the road and quickly became parts cars to keep the remaining few running.
Oddly, the vehicle of choice in that era for bush taxis (meaning dirt and mud roads, often in very poor condition) was a 3 row Peugeot 505 station wagon. It had good ground clearance without being tippy, parts that were easy to get or fabricate, a reputation for toughness and reliability, and lots of room.
That reminds me of the old joke, 97% of all Land Rovers made are still on the road, the rest made it back to its garage.
Land Cruisers and the Hilux are the bush vehicle today and have been for a long time. Toyota quality…
Apparently estates (or if you speak American, wagons) are still pretty popular in Europe, but not so much in the UK. But if you make a big hatchback, like the Merc EQS, that pretty much fills that slot.
See also the Porcshe Panamera, etc.
Unless you want a real load-lugger, in which case you’d either go for an SUV, or “boxier” estate like the Volvo or the Skoda Superb.
So, probably no longer makes sense for Mercedes to do an estate that competes with the EQS .
Another aspect may well be the moves to phase out IC-only vehicles; its a lot easier to fit the inherently bulky and heavy plug-in hybrid power trains in SUV’s.
They can be squeezed into more traditional formats, but it’s probably easier if you have more room, and a pricier vehicle, to play with.
So, I guess we just can’t have pretty cars anymore.
I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl this Sunday. Last year the car manufacturers made it clear that their product lines were going to be electric, and they were pouring large amounts of capital into that goal. At $7M for a 30-second spot, there may not be any commercials for ICE-powered cars this year.