What's in a name? Less confusion, Mercedes-Benz is hoping. The automaker announced Tuesday an entirely new naming convention for its SUVs and a few other vehicles, including a new way to denote engine type on hybrid, electric, diesel and other alternative fuel models.
The tri-star brand also announced that the storied Maybach name will return as a subbrand (Mercedes-Maybach), which will build an ultra-high-end S-Class sedan, set to debut at next week's L.A. Auto Show.
"After more than 20 years of continuity involving some of the most recognized and successful product names in the world, we are now making our system of vehicle nomenclature even more understandable," said Dr. Jens Thiemer, Head of Marketing Communications.
Details on the new Mercedes-Maybach sedan will be revealed Nov. 19 at the brand's L.A. Auto Show debut. For now, we know it will be an extended-wheelbase version of the S600 sedan, with a greater emphasis on interior refinement and luxury. This is no small feat, given how well-executed the insides of the S-Class itself already is.
"In the S-Class segment in particular, customers have very high expectations with regard to exclusivity and individuality," Thiemer said. "Mercedes-Maybach enables us to fulfill these desires in the exclusive top segment of the market."
The car will also have unique exterior styling to let fellow picnickers at the polo match know you sprung for the special Benz. Despite these changes, this new Maybach model will look much more like an S-Class than the ill-fated Maybach models from a decade ago, those lumbering land yachts Mercedes hoped would compete with Rolls Royce but sold poorly.
Mercedes-Maybach will be a sibling sub-brand to its high-performance Mercedes-AMG division. Additional models are slated for the future, the automaker said.
Meanwhile, nearly every SUV in Mercedes' expanding stable will get a new name starting in 2015.
The full-size GL will be called the GLS, the midsize ML will be the GLE, the compact GLK will be the GLC. The petite GLA and uber-boxy G-Wagon will keep their names. The move is designed so that the name for each SUV corresponds with a sedan of similar price and prestige, with S-Class at the top, followed by E-Class, then C-Class, and finally CLA.
"Now is the ideal time to do this, for in 2015 we will be updating virtually our whole SUV model range," Thiemer said. The new nomenclature is also set up with the future in mind. By 2020, Mercedes expects to have "more than" 30 different vehicles available, 11 of which will be all new. By going through this identity change now, the brand hopes to avoid confusion later.
The first new model to roll out under this regime is widely expected to be a four-door coupe-like SUV set to compete with BMW's X6. It will be based on the former ML-class (now GLE) and thus be called the GLE Coupe.
Mercedes showed a concept of this new model at the Beijing Auto Show in April and again on the Concept Lawn during the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August. The automaker is expected to debut a production version at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
Elsewhere in Mercedes' lineup, nearly all of the sedans, coupes and roadsters will keep their current names. The only exception is the compact SLK convertible, which now becomes the SLC.
Finally, additional alphabet soup denotes the type of engine lurking beneath the iconic Mercedes badge. This letter will be at the end of each model's name.
C will indicate compressed natural gas, D for diesel, E for electric or plug-in hybrid models, F for fuel cell, and H for regular hybrids.
So, for example what is currently a ML250 BlueTec (midsize diesel SUV), will soon ask its friends to call it the GLE 350d.