Right now, Toyota and Honda probably have a bone to pick with Mercedes-Benz. It likely goes like this: "Stop stealing the people who buy our boring family sedans, you luxurious Teutonic bastards." Or something along those lines.
See, the new entry level, front-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz CLA is a really big deal for the Silver Arrow brand. They need it to be a big hit to help their average fuel economy ratings, lure in younger buyers, and keep up with other premium brands that have appealing small entry cars like BMW, Mini and Audi.
And so far, they have succeeded. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Mercedes sales are up 15 percent over a year ago, largely fueled by the CLA. And a few days ago, auto industry analyst Cliff Banks had an interesting note about just who's buying it:
Mercedes CLA conquest rate at 70%. Taking accord & Camry buyers. Originally thought to be 30, 000 volume Mercedes execs now think it's 50k
— Cliff Banks (@Cliff_Banks) November 20, 2013
That's right — the CLA is stealing buyers away from the Camry and Accord. Who'da thunk it? It's surprising, but it makes sense when you think about it. While Mercedes loves to tout its $29,900 base price, most CLAs are sold in the $30,000 range (and higher in many cases), which is about what you'd pay for a very nicely equipped Accord or Camry.
And which car would most Americans rather own: a Honda or a Mercedes? The answer to that one is pretty obvious.
It's an interesting outcome for two reasons: one, it proves Americans will trade pricier Japanese cars for entry-level German luxury ones, and two, Accord and Camry buyers tend to be in their 50s and even 60s on average. The CLA may not end up luring in younger buyers as much as originally thought.
It's what I call "the Scion effect." An automaker launches an appealing, affordable car aimed at the youth market, and instead it gets snatched up by older folks who don't want to pay a lot for a good car.
I'm sure that if this trend holds true, it will get blamed on broke-ass car-hating Millennials in the media, but I think it has more to do with people just recognizing a good value when they see it.