Governments around the world are bowing to public pressure to reduce the levels of greenhouse gases their respective countries produce, and more often than not, the first sector they look at is the auto industry. Here in the U.S. the government has imposed a tough 35.5 mpg fleet-wide fuel economy standard for 2016 (42 mpg for cars and 26 mpg for light trucks), while in Europe the government wants to put a limit on CO2 levels--something that could have disastrous effects for luxury automakers like Mercedes-Benz, which typically build big and powerful cars.

To help meet these new fuel economy targets in the U.S., as well as take advantage of the consumer trend towards smaller cars, Mercedes-Benz is planning to launch a raft of new compact and fuel efficient models starting from as early as next year.

The first new model will be a new coupe based on the current C-Class, however, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2012 Mercedes’ second-generation B-Class (current model pictured) will arrive in the U.S. and be available in several different variants including a coupe, crossover and even a sedan.

Beyond that, in 2013 Mercedes will launch its next-generation C-Class. This new model will be built in the U.S. and spawn coupe, convertible and wagon variants.

Mercedes-Benz is predicting a 30 percent rise in sales over the next five years thanks to the introduction of these new models. However, the biggest hurdle remains pricing. The cheapest C-Class in the U.S. is currently listed at $33,600 so any model positioned below this car, such as the new B-Class derivatives, will have to be even cheaper than that. Expect pricing to be comparable with the BMW 1-Series, which itself starts at just over $29,000 in the U.S.

[Automotive News, sub req’d]