Mercedes-Benz is celebrating two production milestones at its Rastatt plant: the 750,000th new-generation A-Class and the 500,000th B-Class will be delivered in June. The respective vehicles, a lotus blue A 180 CDI with a parking assistance system and a horizon blue B 180 NGT with natural-gas drive are destined for customers in Germany and Great Britain.
“The A- and B-Class continue to be very popular with our customers – you only have to look at their top ranking in the premium compact vehicle segment, not to mention last month’s significantly higher sales figures”, said Dr Klaus Maier, Head of Sales and Marketing at Mercedes-Benz Cars. “At the beginning of the year, Mercedes-Benz also introduced the B-Class in China. It is proving outstandingly popular with Chinese customers and has already far exceeded our expectations.”
Mercedes-Benz has sold a total of more than 2.35 million units of the two model series. On the market since 1997, the A-Class is now in its second generation which was launched in 2004. The B-Class has been in production since 2005. Both models are particularly popular in Germany, their largest market. In May alone, 5300 customers in Germany chose an A-Class (corresponding figure for last year: 3400); this represents an increase of 54 percent. B-Class sales were up by 27 percent with 3900 units delivered (last year: 3000). At 18,900 vehicles (last year: 19,000), worldwide sales in the A- and B-Class segment in May were at the same level as last year. After Germany, the biggest markets for the A- and B-Class are Italy, France and Great Britain. The largest market outside Europe is Japan.
Extra shifts to be worked at the Rastatt plant
Thanks to the significant increase in orders from Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain over the last few weeks, the Rastatt plant will be operating at full capacity until September. Plant Manager Peter Wesp: “The success of the Rastatt-built A- and B-Class is testimony to the outstanding performance of the Rastatt production team who produce up to 1000 vehicles of the highest quality every day. Obviously, the current order situation makes extra demands on us, but it’s also very motivating in the context of the difficult market conditions at the moment.” The third quarter will see two and three-shift working at the Rastatt plant with extra shifts planned for Saturdays in July.
Most popular engines, colours and optional extras
Worldwide, diesel models account for some 40 percent of A-Class sales, the most popular engines being the A 160, the A 180 CDI and the A 180. Among B-Class customers, the top engine choices are the B 180 CDI, the B 180 and the B 200 CDI. One out of two B-Class customers chooses a diesel powerplant. The most popular colours for the A- and B-Class are the metallic paint finishes cosmos black and polar silver which together account for about one quarter of total sales. As far as optional extras are concerned, Active Parking Assist is a favourite. This system, which has been available for all model variants of the premium compact cars since last year’s model update, automatically manoeuvres the vehicle into a parking space which only needs to be 1.3 metres longer than the A-Class or B-Class. The system uses ultrasonic sensors to identify a suitable space and informs the driver by means of a display in the instrument cluster. After accepting the proposed parking space, the driver only has to operate the accelerator while the vehicle takes control of the steering and manoeuvres itself into the space automatically.
The natural-gas alternative
Since the 2008 model update, the B-Class has been available with a bivalent drive: the B 180 NGT BlueEFFICIENCY with 85 kW/116 hp brings both economic and ecological benefits. NGT stands for “Natural Gas Technology” and means that the B 180 NGT can run on natural gas or premium grade petrol without any impact on the engine output. With NEDC combined fuel consumption of 7.3 litres of premium grade petrol or 4.9 kilograms of natural gas per 100 kilometres, the B 180 NGT has an overall range of more than 1000 kilometres. As the drive is bivalent, it is possible to change over to petrol operation simply by pressing a button.
The compact vehicles from Mercedes-Benz are also leading the way in the field of alternative drive systems: small-scale series production of the B-Class featuring a fuel-cell drive with 700-bar technology will be starting up before the end of this year. Equipped with the latest-generation fuel-cell drive, the B-Class F-CELL is not only considerably more compact than earlier fuel-cell systems, but also offers superior performance. The redesigned “stack” is some 40 percent smaller yet develops 30 percent more power and is also highly efficient as its fuel consumption is down by 16 percent. The electric motor develops a peak output of 100 kW/136 hp and maximum torque of 320 Newtonmetres. This means that the B-Class F-CELL is able to deliver highly dynamic performance superior to that of a vehicle with a two-litre petrol engine and has an operating range of up to 400 kilometres.