Mercedes is looking at getting cars based on its new front-wheel-drive platform to the Indian market. Unlike the current crop, that includes the A- and B-class hatchbacks that use an expensive sandwich floor construction, the new platform will be cheaper and will have a huge range of cars.
The mother plant for these cars is likely to come up in Hungary where Mercedes, like Suzuki, will make use of cheaper labour rates to make its cars more cost effective. But Mercedes engineers and designers we spoke to at the Paris Motor Show insist this will not be at the cost of Mercedes-Benz build quality, something they have fought so hard to get back recently.
The range will include everything from regular hatches like the A- and B-class, to saloons slightly smaller than the C-class, mini-SUVs and even sports cars like the SLA concept. Known as MFA or Mercedes Frontwheel drive Architecture, cars from this platform will also be the first to be designed with alternative powertrains from the word go. Hybrids and electrics will form the backbone of Merc’s assault on alternative energy cars and tech partners Renault and Nissan will be part of this project as well.
Conventional motors will be transversely placed under the hood, like any good front-wheel-drive car, and the car will use DSG automatics to help utilise the energy made by these engines efficiently. If the fuel quality has improved in India when Mercedes launches these cars, the petrol direct-injection CGI motors will run a lean-burn stage as well, delivering a massive 25 percent increase in fuel economy. That’s almost better than hybrids can manage at the moment. Of course, lean-burn CGI plus hybrid drive is on the cards as well. And Mercedes chief engineer, Dr Thomas Weber, says hybrid drives could be added on to the car at a later stage as well, even a couple of years after the car has been bought.
No detail unclad shots of the cars exist, but the MFA cars are expected to take most of their styling cues from the F-800 Style concept. At the centre is a grille that looks very similar to that on the AMG SLS sports car and the body will feature ‘organic’ shapes and styling cues. “You will be shocked by how radical this car will look,” said a senior Mercedes-Benz executive proudly.
The Indian connection goes further than just assembly in India. “Yes, we expect the compact saloon shown here and then the mini SUV to follow, but Indian engineers are heavily involved in the project too.
Based in Bangalore, 400 Indian engineers are working on pre-development and development work on the variants for this platform, which currently include the A- and B-class. And it’s not just software they are working on today. Their brief has been extended to many hardware parts, with things like seat and other bits being worked on as well. Exciting times for Mercedes in India, coming up soon.