Plans for a compact front-wheel-drive roadster are back on the drawing board at Mercedes. The move follows a recent new model review that called for greater emphasis on affordable and fuel-efficient cars - to attract younger buyers and help satisfy the EU’s newly mandated CO2 regulations.
Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche is weighing up a plan for a two-seat roadster, a proposal that revives the idea behind the striking Mercedes Vision SLA concept, revealed at the Detroit motor show in 2000.
The proposal is based on modified underpinnings from the third-generation 2011 Mercedes A-class - itself set to abandon today’s complex sandwich platform structure in favour of a more conventional floorpan.
No official decision on the lower-priced Mercedes roadster has been taken. However, the realities of the worldwide financial crisis are making their presence felt at Mercedes and officials feel the time is right for a small roadster.
The Mercedes SLA would join the German firm’s growing stable of small cars and slot in below the strong-selling SLK.
One decision facing Mercedes board members is whether to badge the new car as a Mercedes or incorporate it into an expanded Smart line-up. It could be sold as a replacement for the Smart Roadster alongside a possible four-seat successor to the aborted ForFour, a car that is also set to use future A-class underpinnings.
A senior Mercedes official told Autocar: “It is part of the regular new model review at Mercedes-Benz to look at ideas from the past. When the SLA was originally proposed, we didn’t have a suitable platform; the sandwich platform is too high and too heavy. This problem will be alleviated with the arrival of the next A-class, whose new platform provides much greater scope in the sort of variants it can support.”