The new CLA Shooting Brake: The adventure continues

Crazy concepts, outlandish show cars, sensational sports cars — at the Geneva Motor Show there’s a tradition of especially visionary and creative vehicles. So it will be an ideal venue for the world premiere of the new CLA Shooting Brake.

The CLA Coupé itself was already a big challenge in 2013, as I reported here in a blog post on the new CLA Coupé from my perspective as a product manager. Nevertheless, the first CLA Shooting Brake in 2015 was a really bold adventure! It started with its name: Many people felt that “Shooting Brake” sounded like something from the gangster scene.

That’s not completely true, but there is in fact a connection with guns — hunting guns. “Break” and “brake” are terms that refer to a type of vehicle that is especially practical for transportation of cargo. A sporty vehicle that could be used to go hunting (also known as “shooting”) with room for the equipment and catch was called a “shooting brake.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, the British in particular experimented with exclusive crossover vehicles that combined the luxury and style of a coupé with the load compartment of a station wagon. You’ve probably seen the Jaguar E-Type that was converted into a Shooting Brake in the cult film “Harold and Maude.” So the first CLA Shooting Brake marked the rediscovery of a very specifically positioned vehicle concept. Why didn’t we simply call it a station wagon? Because it was derived from a coupé and because it still retains its stylistic line — rather than being derived from a sedan, as our station wagon variants are.

The hunter and the hunted

Our first CLA Shooting Brake was an extremely successful hunter — when it comes to conquering the hearts of new customers. In 2017, half of all the CLA owners in Europe had previously driven cars of another brand. In some countries, we even sold more Shooting Brakes than coupés of the first CLA generation. In Germany, for example, most CLA buyers opted for the more practical body variant in 2018. In many cases, this was the beginning of a longer commitment to the cars with the star. More than 75 percent of CLA buyers in Europe stuck with Mercedes-Benz when they bought their next car. In other words, our bold move was rewarded.

The amazing thing is that success normally generates imitators. However, the brand-new CLA Shooting Brake of the second generation enjoys an absolutely unique position. It’s the only Shooting Brake that is (today) in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio and the only one in the premium competitive environment. We product managers always keep a close eye on the competition. But in this case it was really difficult to find competitors. Out of sheer desperation, we assumed that mid-range wagons were our competitors.

The contrabass

The new CLA Shooting Brake breaks through the usual dimensions of its class: It’s about five centimetres longer and five centimetres wider than its predecessor. Up to the B-pillar, the outline of the frameless windows is identical with that of the coupé. Behind it, the window line is much higher. That benefits the passengers and the cargo. It’s easier to get into the vehicle, and there’s more headroom in the back and a bigger luggage compartment (505 litres).

Does that sound uncool? It isn’t. The new CLA Shooting Brake is also, above all, a designer vehicle. In my blog post about the coupé, I wrote “TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday) instead of IKEA” — but with the Shooting Brake you can have both. The Shooting Brake also has lots of other advantages. For example, my 13-year-old son plays the contrabass — and there’s no problem fitting this rather bulky instrument into the new CLA Shooting Brake.

Customers can experience the new Shooting Brake right now at the Geneva Motor Show. I’m certain that they’ll be impressed. My international colleagues in Marketing and Sales are already one step ahead of the game. The first CLA Shooting Brake was available neither in the USA nor in China. But when the new model was being developed, the Chinese suddenly said, “Count us in!”

In the future, the CLA Shooting Brake will also be available in the world’s biggest automobile market. It will arrive in European dealers’ showrooms in September 2019, and it will be launched a few months later in Japan and China. And who knows? Maybe the Shooting Brake will manage to impress the Americans as well, although we know they’re not big fans of traditional station wagons. After all, it’s not a station wagon. Clearly, the adventure continues.

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Jan Paul Rubens, who is from the Netherlands, studied automobile technology at HAN University of Applied Sciences in Arnhem and Nimwegen. After working for four years at Daimler’s aftersales unit in the Netherlands, Rubens moved to Stuttgart in 2002. There he initially worked in Daimler’s Parts and Service unit, then was responsible for the Middle East market region for seven years. Since 2013 he has been the Product Manager of the CLA. At home he is devoted to his two children, his girlfriend, and his vintage cars — not always in exactly that order.