Mercedes-Benz’s highly flexible compact car architecture has dramatically simplified the process of creating and developing new models, opening the door for more members of the A-Class, GLA and CLA families.
Most significantly, though, the all-new platform also supports electrified models and the likelihood of a zero-emissions companion alongside the, as yet, only confirmed compact EV – EQA.
Speaking to journalists, Mercedes compact vehicle chief development engineer Axel Heix and head of overall vehicle testing Johen Eck said the new MFA platform allowed the relatively simple creation of more small vehicles and the electrification of others.
“It’s clearly a huge help to have a fully developed platform that’s capable of carrying alternative drivetrains so we don’t have to worry about all the bases such as suspension, body-in-white, interior, exterior that’s all well developed and we can ‘simply put an alternative drivetrain in it’."
That new flexibility could result in two equally exciting outcomes.
Firstly, the electrification of existing models is a possibility without having to go through the prohibitively expensive process of ground-up development.
Anything from one of Mercedes’ mild-hybridised EQ Boost petrol engines, through plug-in hybridisation, to full battery electrification of an existing model is theoretically possible.
Mercedes has revealed that by 2022 it intends to have a family of 50 electrified models on offer including a number of mild hybrids and plug-ins but at least 10 will be full electrics, it says.
It would be a safe bet that a majority of the 40-odd hybrids will be slotted into existing model line-ups including its extensive small family which includes hatchbacks, SUVs and a sedan.
Join the EQ queue
Secondly, an all-new full-electric model could join the EQ compact family alongside the imminent EQA. While the production model is now known to be a small SUV (positioned under the already launched EQC midsizer), a hatchback or sedan version of Mercedes’ EQA is one possibility.
It’s worth noting that the first concept to wear the EQA boot badge was indeed a small hatch revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, so the German carmaker has been close to flicking the switch on an EQ hatchback before.
But while the process from inception to sign-off has been streamlined, Mercedes explained that developing a new car is not now an overnight exercise and still requires exhaustive testing and design stages, with a deliberate emphasis on inverted commas around the word ‘simple’.
“We’ve still applied the full development force testing force and maturity level assurance on each new derivative that comes up and that includes also the potential alternatives coming up," said Heix.
“There’s no simple plug-and-play but it certainly helps to have the platform that’s capable of doing it.”
What’s so not?
Versatile MFA architecture is looking likely to spawn more electrified compact Mercedes options but what’s less likely is a use of the flexible building blocks to slot niche cars into the range.
The Mercedes executives dowsed any hopes for esoteric versions of the GLA and sibling models, including a convertible SUV to fight topless versions of the Land Rover Evoque and Volkswagen T-Roc.
“You consider everything but the line-up is pretty efficient for the customers you can reach in our opinion that’s why there’s no demand in our customer’s feedback,” said Heix.
“No actually there is no plan to put a coupe on that one. We don’t see demand for a car like this.”
“I don’t think you reach every customer with one car but I think we have a really appropriate spread of customers that we can reach. There are always holes in the portfolio but the question is does it make sense to fill every little hole?”
Beyond the compact end of Mercedes’ family, the process of model diversification is also ongoing with more EQ models due to check in with their respective classes including a production version of the EQS concept and a steady roll-out of electrified vehicles in the next two years and beyond.
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