The manufacturer said it has already noted a switch from petrol to diesel models of the current model and expects to see that trend continue with the UK launch of the new E-class in August.
A notable trend towards diesel because of company car tax changes in April explains why Mercedes-Benz is launching an E270 CDI version of the E-class in the UK — previously an engine variant only available in mainland Europe in the outgoing model.
It is one of five engines initially available in the E-class, the others being three petrol units and an E220 CDI diesel. A supercharged E200 Kompressor petrol model and an E320 CDI diesel will follow at the end of the year.
In its first full year of sales, in 2003, Mercedes-Benz expects to sell almost 13,000 versions of its new E-class in the UK - with corporate users accounting for more than 60% of total sales.
This year, the manufacturer anticipates it will sell 4,500 new models and 4,000 run-out models.
The current E-class last year sold 9,500 saloon and 3,200 estate versions in the UK. Of those sales, more than half were diesel.
In 2003, Mercedes expects to sell almost 11,000 saloon models in the UK and about 2,000 estates.
Mercedes-Benz passenger cars director Dermot Kelly said he expects diesel sales to account for 60% of saloon sales and 70% of estate sales.
He said: 'We estimate that more than 65% of our customers buy cars with company money and the change to an emissions-based company car tax system in April mean our diesel sales are strong.
'Drivers now realise that diesel engines are very good.'