Off with their heads, says Merc's research and development boss.
Earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz's head of research and development, Marcus Schafer, confirmed what we've been suspecting for a while. There are too many models, specifically on the drop-top side.
Schafer described the brand's convertible range as "high density," which isn't ideal in a segment that doesn't post high sales figures.
The first spy shots of Merc's new drop-top model recently surfaced. However, according to Auto Express, this model will use the CLE nomenclature. Rumors of the CLE's existence first surfaced in mid-2020, but we now have a clearer image of what it will be thanks to these spy shots we originally thought was the C-Class Cabrio. As the CLE name suggests, it will cover a broad range of convertibles and coupes, though the latter will only follow at a later stage.
Merc's priority is its convertible models, as all of them are either axed or outdated. Until recently, the range consisted of the C-Class Convertible, E-Class Convertible, S-Class Convertible, SLC, SL, and the AMG Roadster.
We know that the SLC has been axed, and it will not be replaced. An all-new SL is in the final stages of development and will eventually replace both the AMG Roadster and the S-Class Convertible as the German marque's top-ranking convertible GT car.
That leaves the C-Class and E-Class ragtops. Pricing for the C-Class Convertible starts at $54,700, going up to $85,600 for the AMG C63 Convertible. The E-Class drop-top starts at $71,400 and goes up to $82,850 for the AMG E53 Convertible. There's loads of overlap, and it would be much easier to introduce a singular model that covers all of this territory.
BMW is already set to do the same. The 4 Series base convertible models will play around at the bottom end of the segment, while the upcoming M4 Convertible will take care of the top end. After that, the 8 Series takes over to compete in the S-Class convertible segment.
According to the rumors, the CLE will arrive in 2023, following the introduction of the all-new SL. It's a smart move from Merc's side and a tactic almost as old as the automotive industry itself. Introduce an aspirational halo model, followed by a more affordable version.
There are no confirmed CLE details available, but we think it's safe to assume that it will ride on the new MRA-2 platform used for the new S-Class and C-Class. It's adaptable enough for both four- and six-cylinder applications. We know the next C-Class AMG will be a four-cylinder with hybrid assistance, but Mercedes could just as easily bolt its new 3.0-liter inline-six with mild-hybrid assistance under the hood.
If you look at the images below, you can see the design difference between the CLE and the upcoming SL. There's a clear distinction between these two models.