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Mercedes-Benz looks for a younger audience

A Chinese boy poses beside a Mercedes-Benz car during the 2012 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition at China International Exhibition Center on April 29, 2012 in Beijing, China.

Mercedes-Benz is making changes to its luxury cars. It's all in pursuit of attracting younger customers. The company is trying to shake its reputation as a manufacturer of old-man cars.

So how do you transform an old-man car company into one that appeals to the youth of America? Well, if you are Mercedes, you replace your 65-year-old chief designer with a newer younger model. In 2008 that was 39-year old Gorden Wagener.  His mission: to design cars that are sporty.

"The design cues that make a vehicle look sporty are borrowed from predators of the animal world really," says Eric Nobles with The Car Lab. "They are long, low, lean, wide and big powerful haunches or shoulders."

The new A-Class is Mercedes attempt at sportiness. It looks like a sleeker version of the Ford Fiesta. Noble says that even if the A-Class is well received, the design alone won't attract younger buyers.

Take Audi, for example, which does appeal to a younger demographic then Mercedes. "Audi did a very savvy job of placing that product in the hands of design leaders when they first launched some key models," Noble says.

Audi sought out up-and-coming architects all over the U.S. and gave them free cars, "to demonstrate that these are the sorts of folks that drove an Audi and that was successful in shaping opinion of not just the model but of the brand," adds Noble.

Mercedes' biggest obstacle to attracting younger buyers isn't design, according to Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell. "To get a younger buyer you have to start targeting the lower end of the price market," she says. "So of course that is not something they can do with their $100,000 cars, but with their A-Class."

With a base price of $35,000, the A-Class is one of Mercedes' cheapest models. But still more than double the price of a Fiesta.

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.
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A luxurious car give the better performance and comfort than the other cars, so as per the requirement of the customer most of the car companies introduce the luxurious cars in the market. Mercedes also lunch the new model luxurious car and it developed in new technology, features and look, now most of the young people like to drive the sports or any luxurious cars.
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Now every people like to drive a luxurious car with new technology and features, so how can the car companies develop in their models and implement them in the future is most important thing for them. Mercedes also try to do the changes in the old model cars and add the new technology with the good look for the young people, now young people want the new models with good look, luxurious and high rpm with cc.
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Strange you did not mention M-B's current advertising. It's trying to be hip and high-tech (lots of CGI) and placed on shows with a younger audience like the Daily Show and Colbert. It's also one of the most anti-social, showing the car being driven in ways that would get you tossed under the jail if caught.
But they are fighting a difficult battle - younger people are not into cars, but their high-tech gadgets and social media, a trend that emerged in Japan a decade ago and is certainly here in the US now.
Plus, how many younger people have the money to buy a M-B? Most are working minimum wage jobs trying to pay off college debts.

PS: Demographics: I've owned two Minis and I'm driving my maybe 7th or 8th BMW, the lowest cost one, a 128i, because it reminds me of their earlier, simpler cars. I'm a high tech entrepreneur and own ~10 Apple products. And, BTW, I'm 67!

Great story. As a Merc owner I too have seen Mercedes reaching out to a younger audience, trying to compete directly with BMW and Audi. However, the "A" class mentioned in your story is only available in Europe. Mercedes recently introduced the CLA, which is the North American variant of the "A." Starting price is $29,900 and is, until the November debut of the CLA45AMG, the only NA A Class variant. Just don't want your readers visiting their local dealers looking for the A.

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