GREENOUGH, Mont.--The redesigned 2012 Mercedes-Benz M class won't quite monopolize the brand's advertising for the next six to nine months, but it will be front and center, with safety messages at the core.
"This campaign is going to be real red meat," based on product features and customer benefits, said Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, in an interview at a press introduction here.
The new M class is the third generation of the luxury crossover to be built in Vance, Ala. It goes on sale in the United States in September.
The 2012 model has new standard features such as a drowsiness detection system called Attention Assist plus high-tech options such as blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure assist that had been available only on more expensive Mercedes-Benz passenger cars.
"I 100 percent know that this [safety] message resonates with people. ... The more we do it, the more we come back with resounding positive feedback," Cannon said, citing market research and online discussion groups.
Mercedes started running a video on its Web site a few weeks ago featuring a Google executive who avoided an accident in his top-of-the-line S-class sedan, thanks to a feature called Distronic Plus with Pre-Safe braking. The system automatically detected a possible collision and applied the brakes.
The video isn't specific to the M class, but Cannon said the entire brand enjoys the halo effect, and the M class will get the feature as an option. More recently, the company started running a TV spot based on the video, which Cannon said has scored extremely well in ad research.
"We've all been chastened by the recession," he said. "But if you give people the right reasons--like saving your life, maybe saving somebody else's life--they are still willing to spend for the right reasons."
Cannon said the M class and the face-lifted C class would share a heavy advertising schedule from September through November, followed by time out for the annual year-end event sales promotion in November and December, then back to heavy M class advertising in the first quarter of 2012.
The first two models of the new-generation M class are the ML350 4Matic, which has a 3.5-liter V-6 with direct injection, and the ML350 Bluetec 4Matic diesel, with a 3.0-liter six. V-8 models arrive next year. A hybrid variant also is likely.