The next-generation Mercedes-Benz CLA is getting an electric version, though just what it’ll be called is unclear.

    The company’s CEO, Ola Kallenius, confirmed last week Mercedes-Benz would focus on small cars “that we believe are the most successful on a worldwide basis”.

    “We might later this year even tease what that future would look like,” he added.

    The spied four-door coupe clearly features a charging outlet on the right rear fender, though it’s wearing a heavy disguise up front to mask its fascia.

    The boot lid also sits unusually high, while prototype tail lights have been installed.

    Otherwise, the design appears to be an evolution of the current car which was just facelifted. It could borrow some design cues from the aerodynamic EQXX concept car.

    It could stick with the CLA nameplate, even in electric guise, with a report from German publication Handelsblatt earlier this year suggesting Mercedes-Benz will drop its EQ sub-brand from 2024 when it launches a new range of small electric vehicles.

    Such a move would help reduce confusion. For example, the EQA is not an electric A-Class but rather an electric GLA, and an EQC is related to the GLC and not the C-Class.

    Evidently EQGLA and EQGLC would have proved a mouthful, but it does invite confusion as more electric models come on stream. Mercedes-Benz has already had to distinguish its largest electric SUV from its largest passenger EV by calling it the EQS SUV.

    Mercedes-Benz’s new MMA small car architecture is debuting in 2024 to replace the current MFA2 underpinnings, and will be the first to use the new Mercedes-Benz Operating System (MB.OS).

    It may also be the last Mercedes-Benz platform to be introduced with the option of internal combustion power, as from 2025 onwards the company has said all new platforms will be electric-only.

    It has previously confirmed the MMA platform will be “electric first” but support internal combustion engines, while it can also be used for mid-sized vehicles.

    Despite the new platform, Mercedes-Benz is paring back the number of small cars it offers as it targets more upmarket, profitable segments.

    Mercedes-Benz sold 680,000 Entry Luxury vehicles globally in 2019 but only 570,000 in 2021, however during that time the average selling price rose by 20 per cent.

    Mercedes-Benz has confirmed it’ll reposition its Entry Luxury vehicles, “honing in more precisely on the wishes of discerning customers”.

    It’s also aiming to record higher profit margins on those vehicles, as part of a broader push by the company to reach an operating margin target of around 14 per cent by the middle of the decade in favourable market conditions or eight per cent in “very unfavourable” conditions.

    It will reduce the number of small cars from seven to four, with a report suggesting the popular A-Class and less popular B-Class are on the chopping block.

    The A-Class sedan has already been axed in the US market, where Mercedes-Benz had expected it to be more popular, and the brand may want to reduce the overlap of having two similarly sized four-door models.

    It currently offers the A-Class hatch and sedan, CLA four-door coupe and Shooting Brake wagon, B-Class MPV, and GLA and GLB crossovers.

    Mercedes-Benz also offers electric versions of the latter two, the EQA and EQB.

    The same report from Handelsblatt said the GLA and GLB crossovers and the CLA and CLA Shooting Brake will be the four surviving members, with electric powertrains almost certain to be offered across all four.

    The reported sparing of the CLA Shooting Brake is perhaps surprising, considering it’s a largely Europe-only model.

    The current-generation Shooting Brake has never been sold here, while total CLA sales in Europe – including the coupe – sit at around half those of the A-Class.

    MORE: Everything Mercedes-Benz CLA

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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