BBC Autos

In Canada, a budget twofer from Mercedes

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.

The Mercedes-Benz B250 was on display at the 2013 Toronto auto show. (Jonathan Schultz)

The Mercedes-Benz B250 was on display at the 2013 Toronto auto show. (Jonathan Schultz)

On Valentine’s Day in Toronto, there was domestic bliss at the Mercedes-Benz stand.

The recently redesigned B-Class hatchback, which began European sales in late 2011, sat dutifully by as Mercedes-Benz Canada executives discussed the coming CLA250, the entry-level compact luxury sedan due to arrive in North American showrooms this summer with a sub-$30,000 price tag.

There was, however, an absent jealous lover.

Mercedes-Benz USA has long vexed over the plight of the B-Class, an upright five-passenger hatchback that, in its latest iteration, has sold more than 150,000 units around the world. Though it has been a fixture of US auto shows, first as a lease-only fuel-cell vehicle and later as a purely electric model, for roughly two years, Mercedes-Benz has not committed to offering the B-Class for sale in the States.

The case for the car’s inclusion in the Canadian market, which will also absorb the CLA this summer, boils down to prevailing purchasing attitudes.

“There’s still the perception, right or wrong, that the US isn’t willing to accept hatchbacks,” Chris Goczan, product manager for Mercedes-Benz Canada, told BBC Autos in an interview. “Here in Canada, the B-Class has been around since 2005. It’s a solidly Canadian product.”

Though pricing for the CLA has not been announced in Canada, the B250 is listed at $29,990 in the local currency. There will never be much pricing daylight between the twosome. What, then, about the Canadian buyer allows Mercedes to offer both without fearing that one might cannibalise the other?

“The CLA is going to appeal to a buyer’s style side,”,Goczan said, “whereas the B-Class, being a more upright design, is more about utility. So there are clearly delineated buyers for each.”

To underline the gulf between purchasing attitudes of Canadians and their neighbours to the south, Goczan also noted that the brand’s Bluetec diesel models accounted for 75% of the SUV sales mix in 2012. In the US,  Bluetecs accounted for barely 5% of 2012 sales, brand-wide.

Love, as the 2013 Toronto auto show reminds us, is a fickle thing.