Mercedes is touting the facelifted 2019 C-Class as the biggest mid-cycle revamp of the model to date. We sat down with C-Class Product Manager Mathias Elst to quiz him on the just-launched vehicle, as well as the C-Class’s future prospects
What are the sales expectations for the facelifted C-Class given that Audi recently launched an all-new A4, and BMW will soon reveal a new-generation 3 Series?
We are well aware our competitors have launched new models, or are about to do so, but I think with all the measures we have taken with the new C-Class (there are allegedly 6,500 new components) we are very well prepared for the future. Our goal is to retain the No1 position in the segment, as is the case now. Before the launch of this vehicle there was the usual life-cycle effect as our customers knew we were about to release a new model and therefore sales dipped slightly. With the launch of the facelift we now expect sales to go up again to further cement our segment-leading status.
Are there any plans to downsize the next C-Class or adopt weight-saving measures with fuel consumption and emissions in mind?
The next-generation C-Class is still under discussion within the company, but with the existing car we have already adopted weight-saving measures such as aluminium doors, and the new four-cylinder engines are lighter than before, so the weight of the car has not gone up despite the facelifted model having many additional features.
But do you think in future you will have to reduce the physical dimensions of the C-Class in order to save weight?
We don’t think so, because the existing C-Class is the best-performing (in sales terms) model in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, so it’s obviously very well accepted in the 120 markets that it’s offered in. This is partly because the existing dimensions are what buyers want, so there’s no need to change anything in this regard. There may be some minor changes to the dimensions, but the next-generation C-Class will be basically the same size as the current model
The Mercedes line-up includes the CLA and CLS, but no ‘four-door coupe’ version of the C-Class. Why is this so?
The four-door coupe segment is adequately catered to by the CLA and CLS, and C-Class buyers already have five different variants (saloon, coupe, cabriolet, station wagon and China-only long-wheelbase saloon) to choose from. Our research indicates there is no significant demand for a four-door coupe version of the C-Class, so the five body styles we have are enough.
Is a C-Class plug-in hybrid on the agenda?
Yes, very much so. We had one of the old model (the C350e) and there will be a plug-in hybrid in the future. It will launch next year, but I can’t tell you a specific month just yet.
What about a full-electric version of the C-Class?
No, we’re going in the plug-in hybrid direction as we are enlarging the Mercedes portfolio with a separate range of full-electric vehicles (starting with the EQC next year). So, for the C-Class we’ll stick
with combustion engines, and in the plug-in versions these will be supplemented by battery-powered electric motors.
Is there a gradual shift away from diesel engines at Mercedes-Benz?
It depends on the market, and our sales team tell us there are many questions about diesel power, which is quite valid in light of the current discussions about emissions. That said, the benefits of diesel engines are still there in terms of low fuel consumption, long touring range and generous torque, so these powertrains are still in demand. However, we are still discussing the long-term future of diesels.
Is the design brief for the C-Class changing, given that China and other Asian markets now account for a much larger chunk of its sales volume?
The C-Class is a global car, so we have to design it in a way that fits all markets. If there are specific demands from a particular market, we think of how we can accommodate this – such as with the long-wheelbase C-Class for the Chinese market. So, for this version we started with the beautiful design of the standard C-Class and optimised it in a way that provides extra rear legroom without compromising the elegant proportions of the car.