Highly profitable SUV remains hugely important to Mercedes’ image.

Why offer an all-new version of a somewhat iconoclastic off-roader like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class – especially when Mercedes’ other SUVs are already so popular with shoppers? The answer, says Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dr Dieter Zetsche, is simple: How could they not renew such a desirable model?

“It’s an icon,” Zetsche says of the G-Class. “If you have such a jewel and you don’t polish it, you are done.”

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Specifically, he points to the “unbelievable success” of the G-Class worldwide: About 22,000 global sales last year, of which almost half were AMG variants. (The U.S. market alone accounts for almost 20 percent of G-Class volume.) While that may not be an enormous number in terms of all of Mercedes’ global sales, because the Geländewagen is a pricey vehicle, each of those sales generates a lot of revenue for the automaker.

“We are very successful, this is extremely profitable, this segment,” Zetsche says. “This is a segment [that] most companies don’t even sell one car in, price-wise.”

And the SUV’s continued success, he says, is due in part to its very broad appeal: whether you plan to take it off-road or keep it on pavement, plenty of shoppers lust after the G-Class.

“It’s not just sheiks in Abu Dhabi or wherever,” he says. “We are able, be it AMG, be it G-Class, be it the combination of both, to make very very attractive offerings to the absolute top-notch of the customer population.”

That’s not to say that Mercedes thinks it can create luxury versions of any vehicle; Zetsche notes that it’s a little tougher to make a B-Class hatchback into an aspirational model than an SL-Class roadster. To that end, he says Mercedes does not plan to chase the subcompact segment; the CLA- and GLA-Class models (plus the not-sold-here A- and B-) are as small as the company will go.

“We have no plans to enter the B segment,” Zetsche says. “I don’t foresee a change of that position.”

Live Photos: Patrick Hoey / Motor1.com

Gallery: 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class