I took a phone call the other day from a long-time Mercedes A-class owner. He wanted to know why the brand was deserting just about every value that made his car so ideal for his lifestyle.

The answer could have been delivered direct tonight by Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche as he unveiled the new A-class. Repeatedly and patiently he explained, "For those that hold the old generation A-class dear we now have the B-class; the new A-class is about something new."

Actually, it's not just about a new car, but a new attitude from Mercedes. So long derided as a maker of cars for old people, this is it's response.

"We want a younger audience to be emotionally attracted to it, not just for the exterior and interior, but also the technology," said Zetsche. "It puts Mercedes on the attack: we expect half of buyers to be new to the brand, we expect the average age to be lower than that of a normal Mercedes buyer and we expect to have more women buyers."