Mercedes-Benz rolls off first GLA SUVs image

The first of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA crossovers started rolling down the maker’s assembly line in Rastatt, Germany last week.

This would make the new small SUV the fourth in a new array of entry-lux models that the maker hopes will give it a push past aggressive competitors like BMW and Audi.

When the GLA reaches showrooms next year, Mercedes officials hope it will follow the lead of the new CLA model that recently made its American debut. The coupe-like sedan has become the hottest offering in the maker’s U.S. portfolio, not only delivering a sizable size boost but also drawing in a significant number of buyers new to the Mercedes brand.

“The GLA is the next milestone in our Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy,” said Dieter Zetsche, the Mercedes brand boss and head of the maker’s parent Daimler AG.

The crossover is designed to complement the more conventional CLA and give Mercedes traction in the rapidly growing compact luxury crossover niche, which is expected to become one of the world’s fastest-growing market segments through at least the rest of the decade. The new crossover also rounds out the broad Mercedes utility vehicle line-up which now runs from the entry-level GLA to the brutish, top-of-the-line G-Class, with the GLK, ML and GL in-between.

As with the CLA, the new GLA crossover is targeting a lower price segment than Mercedes has normally gone after, officials saying they hope to attract buyers who would otherwise opt for more mainstream products – such as a Ford Escape or perhaps even a Toyota RAV4. The base CLA currently comes in at just under $30,000 in the U.S.

Pricing for the Mercedes GLA has not yet been set though it’s expected to come above that of the CLA to reflect the greater content of a crossover. Like the sedan, the GLA is expected to offer a wide range of features that could drive the base price up by thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars when fully equipped.