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Exclusive: Mercedes pondering a Mini rival

Time 8 years ago

DLS_3535MERCEDES hasn’t ruled out producing a premium supermini to take on the Mini and Audi A1.

Speaking to Car Dealer Magazine, Mercedes-Benz UK president and CEO said that while the Smart brand has a very positive future, he would like to see the Three-Pointed Star produce a premium supermini to take the fight to BMW’s Mini brand and Audi’s posh A1.

‘I preach to Stuttgart day and night for Mercedes-Benz to have a supermini car that would be a Mini fighter and to wear a Mercedes badge,’ Marcus Breitschwerdt told us. ‘I am not the mainstream though – I am a lone guy on this.’


Smart showed off a four-seater concept at this month’s Frankfurt Motor Show. Despite it having no doors, it gave a strong idea of how a larger, more practical Smart car could look like in the future.

But, whatever form the four-seater Smart takes, it will never be marketed as a Mercedes-Benz. Breitschwerdt wants both Smart and Mercedes-Benz to produce their own individual Mini rivals to take the fight to BMW.

‘The brand proposition of Smart is different from that of Mini,’ explained Breitschwerdt. ‘There will be an overlap of customers between the two brands but largely they are different. The Mini appeal is more traditional and youth-minded, whereas Smart is post-modern. The Mini is a Blackberry and the Smart is an iPhone.

‘We almost closed down Smart completely at one point and we reduced the brand down to one model. BMW needed 45 years to make it from a young man showoff brand to an acceptable premium brand with Mini.

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I am confident Smart is a classic. It’s not the SLR or the SLS supercars that have been Mercedes’ technological masterpieces over the past 20 years – that’s the Smart car,’ said Breitschwerdt.

‘The Smart four-seater is not under the Mercedes brand but it gives me an entry segment,’ Breitschwerdt went on to say. ‘It is a premium brand itself. I admire what BMW has done with Mini – it has been an unbelievable success story. Audi too has done a great job in such a small period of time.

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‘But how deep does Mercedes go? Not very because in each and every segment we want to maintain a sense of premium. So, for the Audi A1 customer who maybe in the 25-27 year-old range, they have to sacrifice more than an S-Class driver does at 55 – and I don’t want this. I want people to buy into the brand.’

While Breitschwerdt is the first to admit he is a lone voice on the firm creating a Mini-rival that would be marketed as a Mercedes, his peers in Germany do understand his wishes.

‘I wouldn’t say senior management don’t not want a supermini – they probably agree with me and see it as a great idea,’ said Breitschwerdt. ‘But at this moment in time, they prudently say we have spent the last five years fixing our quality issues, carving out the Chrysler partnership and we have just launched the new A-Class – we have done a lot of stuff. Do one thing at a time, they say – it’s a nice idea but not now.’

 

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer.

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