The story of the Krosover, now known as the SUV, began exactly 25 years ago, in January 1996. By creating the GLE, or then called the M-Class, Mercedes-Benz opened a whole new segment to the world - the premium crossover.
Three years later, in 1999, the BMW X-Series was launched in this segment, and in 2005 the Audi Q-Series. Currently, crossovers are the most demanded car class in the Latvian market of new cars.
The "father" of the SUV class can be considered the SUV icon, one of the cornerstones of Mercedes-Benz - the G-Class. It has been a classic since 1979. However, in the early 1990s, the Stuttgart-based brand realized that there was market potential in another segment of the SUV market. These are comfortable vehicles suitable for sports and leisure and technically in tune with passenger cars.
The new concept was originally called AAVision (from "all activity vehicles"), but later this segment was renamed as SUV (from "sport utility vehicles"). The main aspects of the concept were defined in 1993. This was followed by a thorough study of the segment, and three years later, in 1996, at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, Mercedes-Benz already presented the first M-Class (W163) concept car. The main components of the market car, the chassis, intelligent all-wheel drive and the newly developed 3.2-liter V6 engine, were introduced in January 1997. Production of the W163 started in May of the same year, and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class was introduced to the world community.
The M-Class debuted at the new Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA. It was the first car plant of this brand outside Germany and the first plant in the United States.
Unlike the SUVs previously available on the market, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class had independent wheel suspension at the front and rear. All-wheel drive also differed: the M-Class did without the standard differential lock, using an improved version of the electronic traction system ETS instead. So, if the wheel started spinning on a slippery surface, the ETS braked it until the required speed difference was reached. This increased the wheel drive torque and provided good traction. The new suspension and ETS significantly improved the safety and stability of the M-Class, both on and off the road.
“With its sporty yet comfortable M-Class, Mercedes-Benz quickly took the lead in the SUV market worldwide, and demand for the new model range grew steadily. Since then, more than two million of these Mercedes-Benz vehicles have been sold worldwide, making GLE the best-selling car in Mercedes-Benz history, ”says Jānis Dambītis, Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador in Latvia. "This family of models has been called GLE since the autumn of 2015. This car has been demonstrating excellent off-road capabilities since its inception. At the same time, it combines the best of both the world of personal cars and SUVs - an attractive and extremely comfortable interior, harmonious design, as well as all-wheel drive, high ground clearance and classic off-road attributes. We are pleased that there are many very loyal customers of GLE in Latvia as well, remaining faithful to it from generation to generation. ”
Over time, the Tuscaloosa plant has been constantly expanded. This Mercedes-Benz plant currently produces the GLE, GLE Coupé and GLS SUV series for the global market and the C-Class for the North American market. With its plant, Mercedes-Benz Cars has made a significant contribution to the development of Alabama as an automotive hub. Along with Mercedes-Benz, other OEMs and suppliers have settled in the state. Currently, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) is the second largest car exporter in the United States.