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Could the new GLA make Mercedes Singapore's number one car brand this year?
ONE of Mercedes' babies has just had a growth spurt. The German luxury brand launched a redesigned GLA in Singapore last night on its Facebook page, skipping the kind of glitzy debut party that it would have held before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) is slightly shorter than its predecessor, but is significantly taller and marginally wider. Mercedes says it has much more room inside as a result, along with a bigger boot.
The driving position is more elevated, to make the GLA feel more like an SUV than its relatively low-slung predecessor. People in the front seats sit nearly 10cm higher than before.
The new GLA also comes with practical new features aimed at family-minded buyers. The rear seats slide back and forth by 14cm, for example, and recline at seven different angles.
The cabin gets the latest dual widescreen displays and voice activated controls that the latest compact Mercedes models have, as well as fripperies such as ambient lighting with 64 available colours.
Authorised dealer Cycle & Carriage kicked off the range with the GLA 200 in two versions. The Progressive variant costs S$176,888 with certificate of entitlement, while the more sporty looking GLA 200 AMG Line costs S$182,888.
Both have a smaller but slightly more powerful engine than before, with a 1.3-litre turbo replacing the previous GLA 200's 1.6-litre engine. They'll eventually be joined by a cheaper, less powerful GLA 180 model, as well as steroid-fuelled GLA 35 4Matic and GLA 45 S 4Matic+ versions.
While the GLA itself will come in a variety of flavours, the Mercedes SUV line-up is now seven models strong in Singapore. It's set to grow stronger with the GLB, a slightly larger SUV, on the way.
That car could well provide the stiffest competition to the new GLA, since it offers seven seats. Yet, Mercedes sees enough distinction between the two to ensure that they don't clash.
"Our priority is to design and deliver vehicles that customers want. Each model caters specifically to different demands or needs that car buyers have," says Gilbert Kwek, vice-president, Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz Singapore. "There are still nuances between them that enable them to appeal to different market segments. The GLB with more seats would be more attractive to families with more members, while a smaller family may prefer the GLA."
Mr Kwek told The Business Times that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has made it "tricky" to project sales figures, but the GLA has been a strong seller for Mercedes in the past.
Pandemic notwithstanding, its launch comes at a time when Mercedes-Benz is in a surprisingly strong position in Singapore. Figures from the Land Transport Authority for the first seven months of the year put Mercedes-Benz in third place here with 3,364 cars registered.
The brand only trails Honda (3,520 cars) and Toyota (3,585), and the new GLA has plenty of time to boost its maker to the top spot. That's the kind of growth spurt Mercedes would love to see from its new baby.