Mercedes planning a family of five

* Five new compact models * B-Class is the first * Various power sources possible...

Mercedes planning a family of five

Mercedes-Benz has revealed its plans for future compact models to What Car? at the Frankfurt motor show.

Jorg Prigl, vice president program management for the A- and B-Class, confirmed that five new models are planned, sharing much of the same technology under the skin.

The first of these is the new B-Class, which goes on sale in March 2012. Prigl describes it as the most conventional and a clear link between the current family of compact Mercedes-Benz models and the next generation.

As with the current model, the B-Class is the practical member of the family, with a spacious, flexible interior. Mercedes expects the new model will appeal to a similar type of buyer as before.

The next A-Class will attract a very different type of buyer to the current car, however. It will be much lower and sportier, making it a natural rival for the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. Both 3dr and 5dr models will be available.

The production version is expected to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March 2012, before it goes on sale at the end of the year. Its expected to look very similar to the concept version on display at Frankfurt.

Two more models will follow swiftly on the A-Classs heels a swoopy saloon very much in the same mould as the CLS and an SUV to rival the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Front-and four-wheel drive versions of the SUV will be offered.

The platform that underpins the new range of models is very flexible, Prigl says different floor heights are possible and each model will have bespoke interior treatment.

As well as conventional petrol- and diesel-engined versions, a range-extender model, all-electric version and a version run on hyrdogen fuel cells are all possible over the next few years.

Mercedes has no plans for a separate low-emissions model line like the Audi A2 or BMW i3, Prigl says, because the capability for such technology has been engineered into the new platform.