Mercedes-Benz B-Class – Click above for high-res image gallery

Here in the United States, the Mercedes-Benz product portfolio starts off with the C-Class sedan. Those familiar with the alphabet may realize that there are at least two available letters before 'C' that would theoretically allow the German automaker to offer something a bit less expensive before graduating up the ranks to the likes of the E-Class and S-Class, in all their assorted variations.

Wouldn't you know it, Mercedes has seen fit to fill those two pre-C-Class slots with A- and B-Class ranges across the Pond (okay, so Canada gets the B as well), and we've been hearing rumblings for quite some time that one of these models might make its way Stateside before too long. Those rumors gain new traction today with this report from Automotive News, which suggests that a compact car and a "small SUV" (read: crossover) may soon be in the offing in the U.S.

AN says that Mercedes-Benz plans to launch the next version of its B-Class in Europe in 2011, and that's the likely candidate for conversion to be sold here in the States. Included amongst the powertrain options will reportedly be some kind of fossil fuel alternative, perhaps either an electric version or one powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

All of this news would seem to gibe with what Autoblog sources within MB have told us in recent days. While earlier reports indicated that the recently launched F 800 Style concept sedan was an indicator of the next CLS or E-Class, we now understand that the Geneva Motor Show star is actually more of a hat-tip regarding the next C-Class, a vehicle that is slated to grow slightly in order to better accommodate new models slotting in below it. Incidentally, we hear that the F-800's controversial snout is in fact a near match for the next-gen E, and that America could receive a sedan version of the rumored B-Class lineup as well.

So, when might we expect all this to go down? Depends. Says Joachim Schmidt, sales and marketing chief at MB, "The behavior of Americans depends on fuel prices. Nevertheless, we see a trend also toward fuel-efficient cars."

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

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