• Jan 15, 2008

click above to view more images of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class

That the R-Class has not been the most successful vehicle in the history of Mercedes-Benz is no big secret, but after staunchly espousing its virtues for year, the automaker has finally admitted it. And as any recovering addict could tell you, admitting you have a problem is the first step on the long road to recovery.

Mercedes had pegged production of the crossover at its Vance, Alabama, plant at 50,000 units annually, with half of that staying in the United States. Last year, however, American dealerships sold only 18,000 units. According to Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, the R-Class "has definitely not lived up to our original plans."

Mercedes is planning a replacement for R-Class, and while it could retain the same big CUV/wagon set-up, the next R is more likely to take another format altogether. Mercedes biggest competitor at BMW, meanwhile, is evidently thinking otherwise with the X6 crossover it just unveiled yesterday.

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req'd]




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  • 38 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      They should have re-characterized their success - "The R-class dominated their market segment with 75% of the 4wd minivan market". Once again the Europeans fail to grasp that 4wd is not an essential part of the SUV equation. Also they make a shorter wheelbase model, why not bring it? A SWB, 2wd, CDI vehicle with 30MPG could be a compelling alternative to the $35K Sienna and Odyssey minivans. MB came up with a great answer to a question nobody asked. In this market (Houston TX) the majority of the RX330's are 2wd as are the FX35's, suggest MB get a clue.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Actually, MB does have exactly the vehicle you describe in its lineup (just not imported to the US). It’s the B-Class (http://www.mercedes-benz.ca/index.cfm?id=2921), and I saw a number of them during my last trip up to the Great White North. However, the styling on the B-Class is even more problematic than the R (at least for those who want sleek styling over practicality). I think the B looks rather interesting (sort of a big brother to my Scion xA).
      • 7 Years Ago
      As for the price, they didn't start at $70K. They started in the upper $40K's. Options are ridiculously expensive, but the R-class was actually about the same price as an E-class wagon. Just more roomy. And, 18,000 sold versus a target of 25,000 is not great, but many vehicles do much worse I'm sure.
      • 7 Years Ago
      18,000 units is not bad for a $60,000+ minivan. It is certainly the sportiest looking minivan out there, and a versatile hauler as well. But the PRICE is what held sales down. Minivan/wagony buyers tend to buy their appliances at a lower price point.

      Affluent young families as well as older affluent people who want something more flexible than a sedan have a ton of body styles and models and configurations from which to choose. How about a Navigator or Escalade or SRX or Land Rover or Volvo or Mercedes wagon or Audi Q7 or Porshe wagon or Hummer or ??

      The point is, if you have the wherewithall to spend over 60K for something tall with lots of seating, your choices are many, and people don't always cross-shop the same type of vehicle (i.e., they will sometimes compare an SUV with a CUV with a minivan with a fancy wagon). Moreover, the number of people who can and will spend those kind of dollars is much more limited than the pool spending 20K to 40K.

      It is kinda like Ford thinking the 2002 Thunderbird was a failure because they didn't move 50,000 units. Why would anyone think that with the limited utility of two seaters and the myriad of two seaters out there (practically every major manufacturer offers at least one)?

      Come down to earth, Mercedes. Nothing that pricey is likely to consistently sell 50,000 units.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Never a fan of it
      PJL
      • 7 Years Ago
      Get the story straight, readers and writers.....this was an attempt to go after the success of Lexus RX. Nothing more, and a whole lot less vehicle. At a significantly higher price point, and offering much less performance, consider it one of the last major faux-pas from the previous management (read Chrysler influence) team. Besides, it was just plain UGLY.

      PJL
      NY
      • 7 Years Ago
      I bet that had to hurt.

      German auto execs don't admit failure very often, and I'm suprised that the announcement wasn't sprinkled with a backhanded "the market just wasn't ready for our brilliant idea".

      I liked the R in concept, but it really is an answer without a question: if you need an unglamorous people mover, you can get nearly as nice appointments in a top-trim Oddysey or Sienna. If you wanted something with more bling, you bought a seven-seat luxury SUV.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I know only one person who bought one of these.

      He is very wealthy, and very old. A bit eccentric too.

      I'm guessing the other 17,999 of these were sold to people who were somewhere in between those three traits.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It was a great car in concept, but as has already been mentioned it was too expensive. What's even worse though was it's ridiculously bad fuel economy, worse than most full sized truck based SUVs.

      Marketing aside the R Class is functionally a minivan, and while other cars in the same "please don't call it a minivan, see it doesn't have sliding doors" segment have done well (Enclave, etc.) they have done so at a far lower price point and even the Enclave's poor MPGs makes it look like a Prius compared to the R Class.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Did they really think anyone was going to buy this rich people's clown car? I think it was a decent concept, but I agree with psarhjinian: It's just not a practical one.

      And I think the R was very poorly executed. It's just not pretty to look at. Marketing departments can call this whatever they want, but no one asked for a Benz minivan.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The front-end of the R-Class is hideous. It truly looks far too feminine; sort of bug-eyed.
      The R-Class was also far too overpriced. Also, for the R-Class to miss its sales targets by 7,000 units (approx.), it wasn't a complete failure stateside.

      The fact that MB moved 18,000 units amazes me. It's so ugly and so highly priced that 18,000 units seems like a lot! I wonder what type of profit MB made per vehicle?
        • 7 Years Ago
        You shouldn't be amazed...there is an abundance of retards in this world.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I liked it and expected it to do better. Look at the Enclave and CX-9. Maybe M-B really was just a little ahead of the curve. And the styling was a little too awkward. Now that real SUV's are losing popularity, I imagine the next version could do quite well, as long as it's better looking.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think Mercedes biggest problem is too many damn models. BMW has the 1,3,5,7,X and Z. That's it. Ask someone what a 7 series looks like and they know what you are talking about.
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