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Germany - Mercedes small car revolution

Mercedes is to shake up the premium small car segment next year when it launches an all-new B-class. The new car is based on ground-breaking new technology, according to senior Mercedes sources.

Many in the industry had expected the line-up of new small Mercedes to be a family of conventional, Golf-class road cars. However, the head of development for the A and B-class and Smart families, Jorg Prigl, says the new MFA Mercedes Front-drive Architecture) platform is so radical that it will be the subject of a patent.

“We will start with the B-class and the MFA platform will contain an IP [Intellectual Property] solution that will allow us to produce both a direct, high-roof, high seating position replacement for the B-class as well as a new range in the Audi A3 class,” Prigl told Autocar at the recent Paris motor show.

The structural innovation was apparently cooked up by the heads of ‘body in white design and safety’ at Mercedes. “The MFA also gives us the package room to fit a battery pack, fuel cell stack, hydrogen tanks and CNG tanks,” said Prigl. “It will allow us to build either an internal combustion or electrically driven vehicle, as well as a number of body styles.”

Some Mercedes insiders say the MFA patent could be revealed on 29 January next year, exactly 125 years after Karl Benz was awarded a patent for his Motorwagen, which was described as an “automobile fuelled by gas”. The upshot is that the MFA patent is likely to centre around an automobile that can be “powered by petrol, diesel, natural gas, hydrogen and electricity”.

Mercedes is also poised to bill the new A-class and B-class family as “the first car of the next chapter” in the history of the automobile.

Gorden Wagener, global automotive design chief for Daimler, said the new B-class is aimed at “loyal clients” who want the high driving position. “The A-class is completely different, a revolution, a benchmark in compact cars. It really defines the Mercedes brand,” he said.

A number of other body styles will emerge from the MFA project, including a small saloon previewed by the F800 concept. Most of the MFA models will be built at a new Mercedes factory situated in Hungary.

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