Consider last year’s unusual story of the entry level Mercedes-Benz CLA – the most successful model introduction by the company on US soil – and now project it to the momentum gained by Audi’s brand new A3 sedan.
Besides the two directly competing models, both companies, and to some extent BMW as well, have been pouring on the market their newest additions to the entry-level line-up, designed to snatch buyers from the mainstream brands and build loyalty.
“CLA was the only game in town for a while, and now there’s something to compare it to,” said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at AutoTrader.com. “If you read some of the comparison tests, the A3 is coming out on top by a long stretch.”
While last year the CLA climbed sales ranks to become the most successful new introduction for Mercedes in the past two decades, even putting the brand ahead of BMW in 2013’s overall sales, the past seven months show the model’s decline, with Audi’s A3 outselling it two to one in the past quarter, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
Although an entry-level, below $30,000 premium cars actually make just a small fraction of the overall brand sales, the segment is increasingly important to all luxury players because it manages to attract a type of buyers that don’t regularly relate to it – young people. And if they do opt for a premium segment car, they might become loyalists – eventually moving up the ladder to six-figure top of the line sedans.