Mercedes-Benz introduces CLA 45 AMG model amid leaping dancers

Dancers + Mercedes CLA = young buyers
Dancers + Mercedes CLA = young buyers
Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew
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The average Mercedes-Benz buyer is older than other people who buy luxury cars. The German auto maker is hoping to change that with its new CLA coupe. Today it unveiled the souped-up AMG version at the New York Auto Show, trying to give it some youthful buzz by unveiling it in the midst of a twirling cloud of black-clad dancers from New York’s Alvin Ailey troupe.

Mercedes isn’t the only luxury car maker targeting younger buyers, but it needs more help. Even with the flashy AMG and cheaper A- and B-class cars, it still has a bit of a stodgy reputation. BMW has dominated in the sporty category, and Audi has been coming on strong.

As a result, BMW and Audi have traded the top spot this year in luxury car sales, and Mercedes is in third place. And its competitors aren’t resting on their laurels. At the New York show, BMW showed off a 320i, which will come out in a few weeks and have a starting price under $34,000. But there were no dancers, just a promotional video, and then a man and a woman clad in all black pulling the shimmery cover off the vehicle.

The New York show is a bit lower on the totem pole than Detroit and other shows, so Lexus and Audi aren’t showing any new cars. At the Detroit show earlier this year, Lexus unveiled a new version of its sporty IS car, while Audi showed off the RS 7 (a high-powered version of the A7).

To ward off BMW and Audi, Mercedes still needs to work on attracting younger buyers. Besides bringing in dancers, it has enlisted music star Usher, who was part of its Super Bowl campaign; the game was played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But ultimately, the car itself is what has to sell. Still, the CLA has gotten good reviews and its price, starting at just over $30,000, is low enough to appeal to the not-quite-yet wealthy. If Mercedes is betting on younger buyers, this is a good hand with which to start.