Mercedes B-Class and A-Class headed for U.S. by 2011

Last week, Mercedes-Benz USA chief executive Ernst Lieb confirmed the automaker is indeed working on a new version of its B-Class hatchback for the American market. Now, Daimler AG boss Dieter Zetsche is echoing the sentiment, going as far as saying it's "likely" the ultra-compact A-Class will also come to the United States.

Mercedes long resisted the idea of bringing B-Class to the American market, fearing it could tarnish the brand's prestigious image. Despite selling the current-generation B-Class in Canada for years, it wasn't until fuel prices reached record highs this year the Mercedes finally decided it was time to reconsider the B-Class for America.

With BMW entering the compact market with the 1-Series and X1, it's not shocking Mercedes wants to do the same with the B-Class. But we're admittedly surprised the A-Class is also being considered for North American consumption. Zetsche told Automotive News no final decision has been made, but by characterizing it as "likely," we suspect preparations are already being made.

It's important to note that the A-Class and B-Class will not be imported to American in their current forms, but rather the next-generation models will be sold here -- probably starting some time in 2011.

As previously noted, U.S.-based electric car firm Tesla has signed an agreement with Daimler to provide batteries and possibly motors to Daimler for electric versions of the A- and B-Class. Presumably, those models will be offered here in North America, in addition to typical gasoline variants.