Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Europeans see U.S. market for new small luxury cars

As head of Mercedes-Benz USA in the late 1990s, Mike Jackson was determined to keep the clumsy, expensive A-class small car out of the United States.

The original A class, you would say, 'Oh, my God. I will never be capable to sell that to anybody. What can I do to keep it out of the U.S. so I don't have to deal with it?'" Jackson recalls.

Americans were unwilling to pay premium prices for little cars then, even if the cars wore luxury nameplates. And sales of such cars remain low.

But European luxury brands aim to change that noticeably in the next few years. Eager to increase sales and meet strict government fuel economy standards, they plan to roll out new small cars with premium prices and luxury content.

Now Jackson's on board. Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept version of the redesigned A-class coupe in April at the New York auto demonstrate. Jackson, on the other side of the fence as CEO of AutoNation, the country's biggest automotive retailer, calls it completely beautiful.

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