Mercedes-Benz Determined to Market a Convertible SUV
Company Seeks to Fill Niche Formerly Occupied by G-Wagen Cabrio
Mercedes-Benz is determined to find a place in the luxury SUV market for a convertible, according to Australian automotive website CarAdvice. The online magazine reports that Benz’s chief of sports cars and SUVs, Wolf-Dieter Kurz, has said that the company is looking into every opportunity to produce a convertible SUV again.
The legendary Geländewagen/G-Class was available as a two-door, short-wheelbase cabriolet until 2013, when it was phased out due to low sales and production difficulties. Since that vehicle’s demise, a premium SUV convertible hasn’t been available, from Mercedes or any other OEM.
It’s doubtful that a reborn MB ‘vert would take the form of the G-Class, as that niche vehicle already serves its small market very well. Instead, we foresee that the new cabriolet would be more of a lifestyle vehicle in the vein of the upcoming Range Rover Evoque droptop or the late, lamentable Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. That said, it would be nice to see a short-wheelbase, al fresco G-Class equipped with the G500 4x4-2’s portal axles.
According to Kurz, one of the primary obstacles to the company producing a convertible SUV is, funnily enough, the Chinese market. That region’s aspirational automotive tastes skew heavily away from droptops and two-door coupes in favor of premium crossovers and chauffeur-driven luxury sedans. One reason for this is the nation’s emerging-market status: Many of China’s roads are primitive, pockmarked, and potholed. This makes them unsuitable for most convertibles.
Even so, we’re not totally convinced of Mercedes’ logic on this one. A convertible SUV would overcome some of the concerns the Chinese market has by having increased ground clearance for a smooth ride over rough roads. Case in point: the Jeep Wrangler has found more than a few fans in the Middle Kingdom in spite of its removable roof, thanks in part to its rugged capability. A G-Class convertible, suitably luxed up for the country’s well-heeled, would likely do equally well, as would a stylish GLE Cabriolet, based on the company's four-door GLE Coupé.
Such a vehicle would also be primed for the U.S. market, which is eagerly looking forward to the stylish Evoque convertible. A GLE Cabriolet would be a perfect competitor to Land Rover’s cabrio, especially in fashion-conscious markets like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, and Miami.
The goal will be finding the right platform and upcycling it for convertible duty. Such an endeavor could be costly and come at the expense of vehicle performance. But if Benz could do it for the right price, we think it’d be a success. After all, doesn’t diversity breed survival?