by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz premieres at Auto Shanghai 2011: Concept A-CLASS sets the pulse rate in Shanghai – model offensive on the Chinese auto market


New benchmark for active safety in the worldwide compact car segment: Mercedes-Benz to announce radar-controlled Collision Prevention Assist as standard equipment for the coming A- und B-Class

Shanghai, China, Apr 19, 2011 – At “Auto Shanghai 2011”, Mercedes-Benz today presented its new star for the growing global premium compact car segment. The “Concept A-CLASS” study, which is one of the highlights of the leading Asian auto show, heralds the imminent arrival of an all-new generation of Mercedes-Benz compact cars. With expressive design and a host of technical innovations, the Concept A-CLASS – slogan: “The pulse of a new generation” - offers a glimpse of the forthcoming A-Class, which is scheduled for launch in Europe next year. As a world first in the compact class, the new models will be equipped with the radar-based Collision Prevention Assist as standard. The system lowers the risk of rear-end collisions. Also making their debut on the Chinese market were three attractive, new Mercedes-Benz models, including the new CLS. Based on yet another new sales record in the first quarter (42,990 vehicles sold, +78%), these newcomers are sure to deliver further momentum this year. Moreover, arriving in Shanghai right on time for the start of the show were the three fuel-cell driven B-Class vehicles that set off on the “Mercedes-Benz F-CELL World Drive” in Stuttgart on 29 January. Together with the battery-electric smart forspeed, which was also presented at the show, they represent the technological lead that the inventor of the automobile has taken in zero-emissions electro-mobility.

In the 125th anniversary year of the automobile, its inventor is clearly younger than ever, as illustrated by the Concept A-CLASS compact car study with which Mercedes-Benz is starting a whole new chapter in this crucial vehicle segment. “The A-Class study presents particularly dynamic proof that we have once again rejuvenated the powerful genes of the Mercedes-Benz brand,” stated Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “The identification and anticipation of new trends has always been a key factor for our brand’s success. And one of the most important trends at the moment is the growing demand for premium compact cars. By the end of this decade, this market segment will have grown from its current level of 5.8 million vehicles worldwide to around 7.7 million vehicles.”

World premiere show with modern “good-mood groove”

The artistic setting for the world premiere fits perfectly with the youthfully dynamic character of the Concept A-CLASS. Inspired by Janis Joplin’s world-famous classic “Mercedes-Benz” from 1971 and on the initiative of British music and lifestyle magazine BLAG, three young performers recorded a new homage to the brand with the star and presented it live for the first time as part of the Mercedes-Benz press conference. The new song “Benz” was composed by singer-songwriter Estelle, rapper and producer David Banner and musician Daley. With modern sounds and new lyrics, they formulate the lifestyle of their generation and the fascination of Mercedes-Benz. “Benz” is a lively piece with a good-mood groove, carried by expressive soul voices.

Concept A-Class – the first heartbeat of a new generation

A long bonnet, low silhouette and slender greenhouse – the sporty look of the Mercedes Concept A-CLASS signals concentrated dynamics. However, it is not just visually, but also technologically that the study rings in a new era in the compact class for Mercedes-Benz. The front-wheel drive car is powered by a newly developed four-cylinder petrol engine. Direct injection and turbocharging deliver high performance combined with minimal emissions and fuel consumption. The Concept A-CLASS features the two-litre version of the BlueEFFICIENCY power unit, which generates 155 kW (210 hp) and is mated to the new dual-clutch transmission from Mercedes-Benz.

In a world first for the compact class, the Concept A-CLASS is equipped with a radar-controlled collision warning system with adaptive brake assist (Collision Prevention Assist, CPA), which reduces the risk of a rear-end collision. Dr. Zetsche: “We will offer this system as standard in our new generation of compact cars. Overall, we are bringing four model variants to market. And, because our customers expect cars that demand no compromise, we are building nothing less than the Mercedes of the compact segment, with all the benefits that typically set our vehicles apart – from safety to quality and comfort through to cultivated sporting character and expressive design.”

Intelligent strategy for local zero-emissions electromobility

In parallel with the renewal and rejuvenation of its compact car lineup, the Stuttgart automaker is pushing forward with the development of local zero-emissions electromobility. “As the inventor of the automobile, we know very well that there is only one master key to a successful future - innovation,” said Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research and Development Mercedes-Benz Cars. “Here in Shanghai, we are demonstrating that our company is younger and, at the same time, more innovative and more “electric” than ever before.”

The proof that local zero-emissions electromobility is already ripe for series production at Mercedes-Benz is clearly presented by the ongoing “Mercedes-Benz F-CELL World Drive” with three fuel-cell driven B-Class F-CELL vehicles. Following the first three stages through Europe, North America and Australia, the World Drive participants have arrived in Shanghai right on time for the start of the auto show. From there, it continues on across the Eurasian landmass to Stuttgart, where the unique world circumnavigation began on 29 January. With the F-CELL World Drive, Mercedes-Benz is seeking to prove the enormous potential of fuel cell technology and, in so doing, also to lobby for the establishment of a hydrogen fuel station network. “Our fuel cell electric cars are ready to go. All that is missing is a hydrogen infrastructure,” said Weber.

In industry circles, fuel cell technology is seen as a particularly promising solution for powering electric cars, because it combines local zero-emission driving with the benefit of long range and short refueling times. “Hydrogen,” said Dr. Weber, “can be generated using renewable energies, and could also be the key to storing electricity from wind and solar energy. We are ready to bring our innovative fuel cell technology also to China.”

Successful work on vehicles with battery-electric drive

In parallel with the fuel cell car, the company is also heavily involved in the field of battery-electric drives. One example is the smart forspeed concept vehicle on show in Shanghai. Its further developed drive technology, packing more punch in acceleration, top speed and battery recharge time (0-80 percent of capacity in 45 minutes), is also the driving force behind the next generation of the smart fortwo electric drive, which will enter high-volume production next year.

In cooperation with Chinese company BYD, Daimler has also developed a new generation of battery-electric cars for the Chinese market. They are scheduled for market launch under a standalone brand name in 2013. Chinese authorities issued the necessary license to the joint venture company “Shenzen BYD Daimler New Technology Co. Ltd.” in February. The design of the new vehicle is already set, with prototype construction and testing starting right now.

Dr. Weber: “Our electrification strategy encompasses all types of vehicles and drives. The unique breadth of our electric car lineup is complemented by intelligent hybrid concepts that we have developed primarily for large vehicles like our E and S-Class.”

Continuing the model offensive on the Chinese market

Mercedes-Benz is still the fastest growing premium brand on the Chinese market. Following the record results achieved in 2010 with a total of 148,400 passenger vehicles (112 percent increase on previous year of 70,100), this trend continued into 2011 in impressive style – in the first quarter of this year, Mercedes-Benz sold 43,991 vehicles on the Chinese mainland, representing an 86 percent increase over the same period last year. “We are assuming that China will be our largest market by 2015. Our target by then is to reach a sales volume of 300,000 vehicles,” said Ulrich Walker, President and CEO of Daimler North East Asia.

A key factor will be the new generation C-Class, which will be built in China alongside the successful long-wheelbase version of the E-Class. Auto Shanghai saw Mercedes-Benz present more newcomers for the Chinese market, in the form of the new CLS and the likewise completely re-developed SLK roadster. Walker: “All three new models are the perfect embodiment of the cultivated sporting character and innovative power of Mercedes-Benz in which the company has been anchored for 125 years. And each one of them will help us to continue the unique success story of Mercedes-Benz in China.”

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