Plans to build a sport/utility vehicle (SUV) larger than the M-Class should be firmed up by year's end, says Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. President Paul Halata. If approved for production, the model probably will be assembled at the company's Vance, AL, facility, Mr. Halata says. But the Mercedes chief draws the line at an even bigger, pickup/SUV hybrid to compete with the Lincoln Blackwood and Cadillac EXT. “I cannot envision those in our line,” he says.

What is on tap for the U.S. is the A-Class small car now sold in Europe. Mr. Halata's remarks came at a press conference to introduce the '02 lineup, which includes seven new models. Overall, industry luxury segment sales should match 2001's estimated 2.7 million units, he says. Prior to Sept. 11, Mercedes was on track to reach sales in the 212,000 to 214,000 range this year. Since then, the company has lowered its target to 205,000 units.