Mercedes-Benz on convertible SUVs: we will find a market
The idea of a convertible SUV may seem silly, but given the growth of the SUV segment globally it's one that’s gathering momentum – including at Mercedes-Benz.
The German luxury brand has been a player in the world of drop-top SUVs for years. Its iconic G-Wagen model was offered as a rag-top Cabriolet variant for military use and for public purchase for a staggering 34 years before being axed in 2013.
Mercedes-Benz currently has a strong SUV line-up consisting of the GLA, GLE and GLE Coupe, GL (soon to be GLS) and the G-Wagen, and then there are the new mid-sized GLC and GLC Coupe models. And with the brand's sales of SUVs up by more than 30.0 per cent in recent times, it seems the demand for high-riding Benz models is palpable.
So, is there a need for a model that can drop its top while riding high? According to the company’s vice-president of sports cars and SUVs, Wolf-Dieter Kurz, the answer is yes… probably. “We had one, which we stopped about a year ago – the G convertible,” he said. “Due to production reasons and volume reasons, basically, we stopped that.”
So, is there a market? Kurz says there is, but the brand just needs to find it. “Never say never – we are looking in to every opportunity,” he said.
“We will find a market.”
That said, convertibles are notoriously fiddly in terms of engineering, not to mention that they are hard to justify in terms of the costs involved. Kurz knows that side of the argument, too. “I think also the convertible is a very slim niche in terms of the SUV portfolio,” he said, before going on to suggest that the biggest hurdle for such a car could be that Chinese buyers may not be interested.
“... China is not very good these days, or in total, in terms of convertibles, in terms of classical sedan-based coupes, in terms of roadsters. And it’s somewhat also the driving force in the meanwhile for the overall portfolio: can it be successful in China?
“There are lots of discussions,” he said. “We are having a look to what’s happening in the market, and also making up our mind. But we didn’t have any decision yet.”