Mercedes has long hesitated to export its A-Class and B-Class models to America, fearing that the compact cars’ prosaic, minivan looks did not fit with the super-premium image that the company cultivated in the United States.
But that is set to change with the introduction of a more stylish and elegant version of the B-Class, unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show on Tuesday. Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, said that the car would be exported to the United States and that other new compact models would follow.
Mercedes is trying to catch up with its rivals Audi and BMW in offering cars that are more affordable for younger buyers, hoping to win them as customers early. Mercedes is also following a trend toward more fuel-efficient cars that still have luxury features. The B-Class will have a turbocharged engine and a radar collision prevention system as standard equipment.
Daimler is likely to export other variations of its expanding lineup of compact models as they come onto the market in coming years, Dr. Zetsche said. The company is responding to American dealers who are excited about the lineup, which is expected to grow to five vehicles, including a compact S.U.V., Dr. Zetsche added.
“Dealers expressed interest in all of them,” he said.
The new B-Class, which goes on sale in Europe in November but most likely will not arrive in the United States until 2013, strikes a more sporting stance than its predecessor. It sits lower to the ground, which takes away some of the minivan effect. To hold down production costs, Mercedes will build some of the cars in a new factory in Hungary.
“It’s a real Mercedes,” Thomas Weber, head of research and development at Daimler, said in an interview.
Mr. Weber said it was unlikely that all five planned compact models would come to North America, but they would all meet United States requirements just in case. Other new models will include a new A-Class, due in Europe next year; the S.U.V.; and a coupe.
“These five are perfectly designed for the global market,” he said.