It is a fact that more Mercedes A-Classes were sold in the UK last year than Jaguars.

Just pause and reflect on that for a moment, and layer it with the facts that the A-Class was at time Britain’s fourth best-selling car (behind the ubiquitous Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Nissan Qashqai) and that Mercedes was also the fourth largest car maker by sales.

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And then, just to blow your mind, ponder the fact that the A-Class was in its runout year. Good for discounts, of course, but not usually good for sales as fashion conscious buyers look for the next new thing. And in the arena of small hatches, there’s always a next new thing for the typically younger-than-average buyers in the segment.

In Europe, A-Class sales ended the year 1% up, in the PCP-driven UK 6% up. Add in the related CLA and you have a its comes close to leading the premium sector even at the end of its life - both variants sold 311,000 units, pipped by the Audi A3 hatch and saloon (316,000 units) and far ahead of the BMW 1-Series and 2-Series (275,000 units - but with the fastest growth of the three), according to statistics from industry analysts JATO.

Can there be too much of a good thing? I asked Merc boss Dieter Zetsche as much ahead of today’s all-new A-Class reveal, and he replied with some candour and a lot of humour.

“We sell 2.4m cars a year - 2.5m if you include Smart. That sounds a lot, but it is only 2.5% of the market - at that point I think we can still describe ourselves as exclusive,” said Zetsche.

“But then you look at sales in Germany, where we are around 10% of the market. Perhaps that’s not so exclusive anymore, but I don’t think our brand image is changed by that fact. My view is that we are within the bandwidth of what’s acceptable without damaging our exclusive or premium status.

"I remember when we launched Maybach all those years ago, and all the owners told us to just use the Maybach name to preserve the exclusivity. Well, they were right - at the peak we sold 600 cars a year. Then with the new generation we added the Maybach name to the Mercedes S-Class and we sell 500 cars a month, every month in China. If that has come at the price of exclusivity, I can live with that.”

Zetsche may have to live with it for a while longer, too. The new A-Class is arriving bang-on-time, with the competitor set ageing and the premium SUV market looking slightly stale, such are the are of the models there. It’s worth noting too that - despite the sales figures - the outgoing A-Class wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, nor the most comfortable or practical.

If the new one is a significant step forward, the potential for increased sales and stronger-still used residuals (which can further drive PCP payments down) are very real. Mercedes may have posted huge growth in recent years, but you have to suspect the good news has only just begun.

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