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BMW, Mercedes plan smaller vehicles for U.S.

Automotive News reports on BMW and Mercedes-Benz's plans to sell smaller cars in the U.S.

PARIS--Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz will bring to the United States several vehicles based on platforms smaller than what they currently sell there.

BMW will bring a new front-wheel-drive family of cars in a class known as UKL, a German abbreviation for lower-compact-class cars.

"It will be a relatively big segment because we have several body styles," Ian Robertson, BMW AG board member for sales and marketing, told Automotive News last week at the Paris Motor Show.

He didn't disclose what body styles BMW is developing but confirmed that the vehicles will have a four-cylinder engine in the United States at launch. The new family of small cars is expected to be introduced in the next few years, before the launch of BMW's Megacity electric car due in 2013, Robertson said.

European media reports say BMW is planning at least three variants.

Mercedes-Benz will ship three compact front-wheel-drive vehicles to the United States starting in 2012, including one with an alternative drivetrain.

Either a compact SUV or a coupe derived from the B-class platform will go on sale first. Neither will wear a B-class badge. Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president for sales, did not disclose the planned vehicles' names.

The United States won't get the smaller hatchback that goes on sale in Europe at the end of next year as an A-class model.

Schmidt said Mercedes later will add a compact van featuring its electric drivetrains. Mercedes is considering a fuel cell model or an electric with a range-extending gasoline engine. Details and timing are still being worked out.

The van will have a second floor to house a battery. This approach won't use up precious interior room, Schmidt said. The fuel cell van also will help Mercedes meet strict U.S. fuel economy standards for the 2016 model year.

"I don't know when this will come. We are working very hard on this alternative drivetrain," Schmidt said.

"It is important for us at Mercedes-Benz to be the leader, not the follower."

(Source: Automotive News)