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INSIDE STORY: New Mercedes M-Class Barely Made It Into Production - VIDEO ENHANCED


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2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel


STUTTGART, June 21, 2011. Last week, The Auto Channel brought you the news, details and pictures of the new Mercedes M-Class. However, the third generation was close to being cancelled.

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Dr. Thomas Weber introducing the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Just when Mercedes-Benz had initiated the development of the new M-Class the financial crisis erupted in full force. In North America, the largest market for the M models, fuel prices rose steeply, confidence sank to a low, and sales of premium SUVs plummeted. Last week at the presentation of the new M-Class in Stuttgart, Thomas Merker, chief engineer of the M-, R- and GL Class, said: “We thought it would mean the end of the SUVs, and of the M-Class. We had just begun developing the third generation…” Mercedes decided, though, to stick to the plan and proceeded the development, not even daring to guess that within a year the big SUVs were just as popular as before. Merker: “Up to this day, the demand is high and the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, plant is building the current M-Class at full capacity. But soon production has to come to a halt, because we have to retool the plant for the new generation.”
Click PLAY to watch the new ML350 on the road

The M Class debuted in 1997 and was the first SUV of Mercedes-Benz. The bold looking model was also the trendsetter for luxury SUVs, even though Range Rover and Land Rover were already on the market for a long time. The first M was succeeded by a more sophisticated, refined model in 2005. The new generation has been developed with an important goal: it should be the most fuel efficient model in its class. Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the board of and development boss of Mercedes-Benz Cars said that an important change has been de ever growing power of the customers. “They can test drive and choose, they can ask refunds. But they also show a strong demand for premium SUVs and for reduced fuel consumption in combination with excellent performance.”

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2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

The highlight of the new generation undoubtedly is the fuel efficiency, that for the ML 350 4Matic BlueEfficiency with its 3,5-liter V-6 engine has been reduced by 25 per cent to 8.5 liter per 100 km average according to the EU 6 cycle (estimated 17/22 city/highway, or 27.5 mpg). The updated 3-liter turbo diesel has an estimated fuel efficiency of 20/25 mpg for city/highway. In Europe the ML 250 BlueTec will set a new bench mark with 6 l/100 km (31 mpg), a CO2-emission of 159 g/km and a range of up to 1,500 km.(932 m)..

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

We already brought you the details and technical specs of the 2012 model (SEE: All New M-Class World Premiere) that barely made it to development. But Mercedes is convinced that demand will be high for the new SUV and the success story will be continued. Since the introduction in 1997 some 1.2 million units have been sold and with excellent fuel economy the new generation will have to make it 2 million.


Click PLAY to watch highlights from the M-Class premiere