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Mercedes Is Killing Its Status Symbols

Illustration for article titled Mercedes Is Killing Its Status Symbols
Illustration: Mercedes-Benz / Jalopnik

Mercedes-Benz used to be the German automaker known for a century of crafting luxurious coupes, convertibles and limousines, building some of the most collectible, prized and personalized cars in the world. Today it’s known for big, boxy crossovers, and it seems the old Mercedes is about to be killed off.

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Mercedes has expanded its immense catalog of cars over the years to include crossovers and SUVs alongside its more private, luxurious options, like the E-Class and S-Class coupe. This was never a problem, as the shoppers of yesterday looking for a coupe would never be satisfied with a giant crossover. But tomorrow, those vanity cars will likely all be gone as seven current Mercedes-Benz models are now on the chopping block.

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People are just more practical with their money these days, and tastes have changed. It’s making Mercedes question why, exactly, it makes so many different cars with similar characteristics, and the U.S. market is ripe for trimming, according to this report from Automotive News:

The luxury automaker plans to jettison seven car models from the U.S. market, Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Nicholas Speeks told dealers during a webinar in late June. Speeks did not identify the models or offer a timeline, according to retailers who heard the presentation.

But according to a source familiar with the plans, there could be more than seven models. Those under consideration are the coupe and convertible versions of the S-, C- and E-Class nameplates, as well as the CLS coupe and one of the brand’s GT models, according to the source.

A Mercedes spokesman declined to comment on the brand’s U.S. product plans.

Accounting for engine and transmission options, Auto News reports Mercedes-Benz currently offers over 100 different vehicle variants in the U.S. market. That’s not just a production headache, either. That means the entire Mercedes dealership network has to be trained and educated on over 100 different cars and has to be able to navigate consumers through a very complicated and potentially confusing lineup of vehicles.

No matter what, simplifying the lineup, even by consolidating powertrains, could potentially save millions of dollars and even lead to more car sales if your product suddenly has a stronger identity in the lineup.

So Mercedes is reportedly looking to dramatically cut back on its coupe and convertible models. This makes the most sense because no other car company feels the need to offer a coupe and convertible variant in compact, mid, and full-size, with further specialized convertibles and coupe sports cars stacked on top of those. It’s frankly been a mess for quite some time.

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I would genuinely fight to save the E-Class coupe—it seems like the best compromise among everything Mercedes is potentially looking to cut. Both accessible and aspirational. I’d also get rid of the CLA, mostly just because I like the A-Class better—but one definitely has to go.

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It’s obvious that luxury coupe and convertible sales have been trending down over the last few years as the premium segment becomes more and more focused on crossovers, SUVs, and even pickup trucks. Mercedes is just following the money. It just really should have seen this coming before greenlighting more two-door models than Mazda has cars in its an entire lineup.

I can’t help but feel like this will kill the core identity of what Mercedes-Benz is, which are leather-padded tanks with paint jobs that look like they need a mortgage, with the luxury of only having two usable seats and screwed together to go 150 mph until the end of time.

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DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

I used to go to this place in Atlanta, and if you know it, you know it. It’s called Jack’s Pizza and Wings, right there off Highland. It’s a dive bar that serves pizza and wings, and also super cheap beer. Back in 2009, they were still serving $1 pints of “Old 4th Ward” which I’m pretty sure was just Miller.

Their brand was pizza, wings, and cheap beer. Sure, there were other fun things. I loved adult trivia night, and nothing beat their live punk bands on the back patio.

You may recall a few days ago on NPOCP I told the story of what an E-Class Convertible did to change my life. The soul of their brand is big, stately cars, and dramatic convertibles. If you take those away, you have the dive bar, but no cheap beer. The Mercedes brand is built upon glamour, and the idea that you own a Mercedes. It’s not like Cadillac, where their brand is basically the Escalade. If I close my eyes, and think about a Mercedes Benz, I’m thinking about a dramatic, two two coupe — maybe a ragtop.

Did Jack’s offer microbrews that tasted better? Absolutely. That’s what people usually ordered, because that’s what is popular. But sometimes, you and your friends would say, “Let’s order a $3 pitcher.” Yeah, they had $3 pitchers. At Jack’s, you probably wouldn’t do it, and they don’t really sell many of them, but if you wanted to get it, you could, and that was the core of their brand. They still offered that “thing” that made them rootsy and cool.

You don’t kill your brand just because something else is currently selling better. You lose a few bucks selling that thing, because it’s what keeps the image alive. Mercedes needs to lose money making their convertibles in order for their SUV’s to have the “cool by association” value.