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driving it home

The new Mercedes-Benz BLK-Class.

The most important vehicle in the Mercedes-Benz Canada lineup is the B-Class. Yet it's been an eternity since the B's last redesign.

In fact, to inject some life into the aging B, when last I checked the factory had up to $2,000 in cash incentives on this sub-$30,000 wagon.

Finally, FINALLY, a replacement for the current B-Class is coming. It will be launched in Europe by year-end, according to and will come to Canada some time next year. We have pictures of the new B and I like it. All that flaming in the sheet metal at the side – a design affectation Mercedes seems to have borrowed from BMW – seems to work here. I like it.

Mercedes is also readying a new A-Class (three-door), though we are unlikely to see that for sale in Canada. But in Europe, look for the A in early 2012. Wish we were getting it.

We will get Mercedes' new small crossover (BLK-Class) later next year or early in 2013. And late next year Canadians should also see what Mercedes has planned for its new four-door sedan, the compact one that will help Mercedes meet fuel economy targets. We're told by just-auto that it is likely due in late 2012.

Mercedes is working to reinvent itself in this new era where demand for highly fuel efficient vehicles is perhaps the overriding story of the entire car business. The Americans have never had the B-Class, even though it's been a staple of the Canadian lineup for years and years. But to meet fuel rule, Mercedes is going down the B path.

That's interesting because in the U.S. Mercedes has always felt the B was nothing more than a prosaic minivan. Selling it would damage the brand's super-premium image with Americans.

Dieter Zetsche, the head of both Daimler AG and its Mercedes brand, said in Frankfurt that the new B would most definitely come to the U.S and that other compact models would follow. Mercedes would like to see younger buyers in North America and the way to get there is to cut prices and shrink the vehicles.

The coming B-Class will have a turbocharged engine and a radar collision prevention system, we're told. Expect it to sell for about the same price as the outgoing B.

Moreover, when it comes to small cars, look for Mercedes to go further than just the sedan, the crossover and the new B. Mercedes' small car array is expected to grow to five vehicles in all.

The big question is this: Will Canadians get all five? In Frankfurt, Thomas Weber, head of research and development at Daimler, told Automotive News that North Americans will NOT see all five planned compact models. That's the bad news. The good news is they all will meet regulatory requirements in the U.S., just in case.

"These five are perfectly designed for the global market," he said.

When last I checked, Canada was part of the global market. So how about all five, Mercedes-Benz Canada?