The unusual thing about the 90-second ad Mercedes-Benz released today for Sunday's Super Bowl isn't its cast list — Kate Upton, Usher and Willem Dafoe — nor the usual high-gloss assembly of wishcasting. It's that the punchline of the ad is the price of the new 2014 Mercedes CLA-Class sedan, something rarely seen in modern big-ticket spots. When a German luxury automaker wants to sell a new model that costs less than the average Ford, it has no choice but to go big or stay home.
Here's the extended remix of the ad that will run Sunday, with far less of Upton's talents than the teaser suggested:
That $29,900 price on the CLA-Class represents Mercedes' gamble that it can successfully pursue younger, less wealthy buyers without lowering its appeal to the one percent. The last time Mercedes tried such a strategy a decade ago, the result was the C230 hatchback, whose vinyl interior and buzzy engine pleased few customers, even at a starting sticker of $25,000.
Mercedes execs vow they won't repeat those mistakes with the CLA; even though it's front-wheel-drive in a break with Mercedes tradition, it will also sport a modern 7-speed automatic transmission and full options list. At a $5,000 discount to the cheapest C-Class, the CLA could bring in the type of customers who can keep Mercedes going well into the 21st century. Staying young sometimes requires bargaining with the devil.