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Mercedes B-Class Begets the Dodge Hornet
The Mercedes B-Class, a line of compact cars about the size of a Volkswagen Golf, is expected to be imported to the U. market within one or two years time. This model is unusual in that it will be the first vehicle marketed by Mercedes in the U. that is not a true luxury car.
Instead, the German automaker is hoping to capitalize on its venerable name by serving a greater share of the American populace by marketing a more ordinary model. Soon after the B-Class’ debut, yet another small vehicle derived from Mercedes will also make its appearance in the U.: the Dodge Hornet. Both the B-Class and Hornet are being developed to revolutionize their respective brands, pitting DaimlerChrysler against some of the leading youth brands in the world.
Not everyone thinks that it is a good idea for Mercedes to sell a budget model in the U., particularly one sporting the Mercedes marque. Yet, Mercedes has been building smaller models for years and in Europe the brand is known for producing luxury cars as well as vehicles for the masses. Indeed, Mercedes’ biggest adversary, BMW, also produces a line of small cars and is planning on bringing these vehicles to the U. shortly. Thus, like it or not, Mercedes must respond and the B-Class will be the answer. For Mercedes, the B-Class likely to make it to the U. will be a four door sedan outfitted with a six cylinder gas engine. A hatchback, popular in Europe, will probably not be included in the deal knowing American consumers’ disdain for that particular body style. Diesel powered B-Class’ are a possibility and will become even more likely should BMW introduce the same. For Dodge, the Hornet represents an answer to Scion and their line of youth oriented brands. While the Mercedes B-Class will likely appeal to VW and Nissan owners, the Hornet will target Scion owners as well as those inclined to purchase a Honda Element or other small, boxy vehicle. DaimlerChrysler, the owner of both Mercedes and Dodge, knows that the Hornet is necessary as the brand’s current entry level vehicle, the Caliber, is too expensive to compete against the lowest priced cars from Japan and Korea. Considering that Chinese cars selling for $8500 or less will also be arriving soon, DaimlerChrysler must respond and respond quickly with the Hornet. While plans haven’t yet been finalized, the Hornet will likely strongly resemble the concept vehicle now on display at car shows around the country. This means that the Hornet will sport a 1.6L I4 mated to a 5 or 6 speed manual transmission, with a horsepower output of 170.
With 19 inch tires, stow and go seating, and Saturn ION-like doors, the Hornet will not be confused with any other vehicle on the road which is exactly what Dodge hopes will happen. To keep production costs down, DaimlerChrysler is looking for a manufacturing plant, probably in Mexico, to build the vehicle. Aiming to keep prices to around $10,000, DaimlerChrysler may tap Volkswagen to produce the vehicle at one of its own plants. This would enable VW to fill excess capacity and give DCX a readily available source to produce the Hornet. Yes, the B-Class is poised to change the way American consumers think about the Mercedes brand while giving the make a chance to capture a broader chunk of the market. With the Hornet deriving its platform and other key components from the B-Class, Dodge will also benefit and be able to holds its own against Asian imports. Yes, both products present risky moves for parent DaimlerChrysler, one that the automaker must take in an ever changing and highly competitive world.
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