Dermot Kelly, Mercedes-Benz UK director of passenger cars, said: “We have a strong retail base, but in this current environment, retail buyers are out of the market.
“We want to widen our portfolio of customers to improve the spread of risk.”
Speaking at the international launch in Frankfurt of C-class, which goes on sale in the UK in September, Mr Kelly said Mercedes had to create a sportier image, while maintaining its traditional virtues of safety, quality and comfort.
Mr Kelly, who quit as Audi UK director a year ago to join its rival, believed the shift was necessary to continue growing market share.
Developed over four years and £820m investment, the C-class will inaugurate Mercedes' standard pricing policy across Europe, with variations of no more than 5%. The UK price, yet to be set, will be “within 5%” of the outgoing model, said Mr Kelly.
The image change will help Mercedes raise UK market share, though sales growth will be “less than 10%” year-on-year.