Odd World: Buick Doesn't See Mercedes-Benz CLA as a Compact Luxury Threat for Verano
It's an odd time in the automotive industry when Buick and Mercedes-Benz are beginning to converge on the same market space. The hype surrounding the idea of a $30,000 compact Mercedes-Benz--the people's Benz--has pushed many an automaker to stand up and take notice about what's going to happen in the downmarket luxury space. But not Buick, apparently. Buick shoehorned the Verano to the market at the $30,000 or so price point for the 2012 model year and has enjoyed great success with its compact luxury sedan thus far. Through October, sales are up 22 percent on the year, posting 39,874 takers thus far. Last month, Buick sold 3,306 Veranos. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz started selling the CLA-Class in September and saw 4,895 buyers last month--7,205 total. Mercedes looks to be on a tear that we're wondering if it can be stopped when the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series lineups arrive. We spoke to Buick spokesman Nick Richards at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and he confirmed that, frankly, he's not worried about the CLA. Despite competing in the same space, the Mercedes-Benz can far exceed the Buick Verano's loaded $34,000 price tag. He also said Buick buyers are completely different. "If you want [the Mercedes-Benz] badge, you're going to get that badge," he said. The Buick Verano caters to those who want to downsize their cars without necessarily compromising on amenities. Early research has shown that the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is not impacting Verano sales. Buick is seeing considerable growth in its heart markets--the Midwest--while experiencing plenty of sales gains on the East Coast as well, says Richards. He also said that sales have been picking up on the West Coast as well, traditionally one of Buick's weaker markets. In uplevel guises, both Buick and Mercedes-Benz utilize turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines. The Buick's produces 250 horsepower and comes paired to either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The CLA comes exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and a 208-horsepower engine in CLA250 guise, but it's available with all-wheel drive. The Verano comes only with front-wheel drive. Overseas, the similarly built Opel and Vauxhall Astra is available with the HiPer strut front suspension that can be found in some Buick models. It also comes with optional adaptive headlights. Richards said that the headlights weren't certified for the U.S. models, and as for the suspension, "It's available in the Regal." That, coincidentally enough, takes off where Verano stops, starting in the low-30s and topping out in the mid- to high-$40,000 range, which is where the CLA can quickly go with just a few options boxes checked.
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