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The Reset Button: New reports say Mercedes SLA roadster on-track for 2012

Click above to see the Mercedes-Benz Vision SLA concept in high-resolution

Small countries with fledgling economies are prone, upon occasion, to scrap their currency and start over again. Inflation rises, their currency is devalued, so they simply press the "reset" button. And looking at the history of the Mercedes-Benz roadster, we wonder if they haven't been doing the same thing. First came the original SL – "sporty" and "light weight" – which by now has swelled to massive proportions and SUV-rivaling weight. So Mercedes introduced the SLK, a smaller version with the added K for "kurtz" or "short". But as the SLK has by now grown at least as big as the original SL, officials have been mulling over the idea of making an even smaller roadster.

Actually, they've been mulling it over for nearly a decade. Mercedes unveiled their Vision SLA concept way back in 2000, and they've been toying with the idea ever since. But new post-Detroit Auto Show reports suggest that the long-rumored SLA-like droptop is alive and well, and may finally come to market as a response to growing demand for smaller, more efficient vehicles. Although the current A and B-Class platform utilizes novel sandwich underbody construction that would preclude use in a short roadster, the next generation of Mercedes front-drive compacts is expected to forgo the unusual configuration in favor of a more conventional front-engine/front-wheel-drive set-up. Even a small-displacement AMG version could be in the cards. Sources continue to suggest we could see a production SLA slot under the SLK by 2012, just in time to face off with BMW's rumored 1 Series-based roadster.

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