Mercedes-Benz unveiled a concept sport utility vehicle with rugged design and space for as many as seven passengers to expand its in-demand lineup of mid-sized and compact cars.“We asked ourselves whether there is still space between the GLA and GLC,” sales chief Britta Seeger said in a statement at the Shanghai auto show. “The concept GLB is the answer to this question.”
China has been one of the few bright spots for the Mercedes-maker Daimler AG so far this year. Deliveries in its largest sales region defied an overall market slump to edge up 2.6 percent through March, while sales in the U.S. and Europe fell. Global trade woes and slowing growth are undermining demand for new cars at a time of record spending on electric cars and new digital services.
The GLB prototype, featuring 17-inch wheels, harks back to the unveiling of the Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover in Shanghai six years ago, which heralded the brand’s successful shakeup of its compact-car offerings. The manufacturer sold more than 609,000 vehicles in this segment last year, about a quarter of global deliveries.
Mercedes said the GLB’s third row of seats offers “comfortable seating for two medium-sized occupants,” despite the vehicle’s relatively moderate size. The company is also showing the sporty Mercedes-AMG A 35 sedan, the updated GLE SUV and the electric EQC model in Shanghai.
China’s importance for Daimler extends beyond selling cars. Billionaire Li Shufu became the German manufacturer’s biggest shareholder last year and recently agreed to form a joint venture to transform Daimler’s ailing Smart mini-car nameplate into an all-electric brand based in China. Separately, Daimler has raised the prospect of lifting its stake in its joint venture with BAIC Motor Corp, people familiar with the matter said in December.