While major European automakers such as BMW and Volkswagen have already launched their electric vehicles, Mercedes-Benz has merely coughed up a concept car early this year. This should not fool you into thinking, however, that the company is not working hard on establishing a foothold in this emerging auto segment.
One All Electric Vehicle A Year
The company just publicly outlined its long-term plan for its EQ brand, which is Mercedes' future EV range. Based on the provided details, it is both ambitious and comprehensive.
For one, Mercedes wants its assembly line to produce a new EQ electric vehicle each year. This is aligned with an earlier pronouncement of Daimler AG, its parent company, that it has funneled $7.3 billion to fund EV research and development. Mercedes also aims to manufacture an accompanying plug-in hybrid variant for each EV model.
The first Mercedes EV has a projected 2019 debut. The pace should pick up after that through a very specific plan to produce 10 EVs in the next eight to nine years.
In an interview with Car & Driver, Matthias Lührs, the vice president of sales and product management at Mercedes, stressed that its plan is doable provided it is driven by three key factors: customer demand, infrastructure and regulations.
At this point, it seems that the first variable is underwhelming. By 2014, EVs only claimed 1 percent share of the vehicles sold in the United States. This is already the case even when the bulk of global EV sales came from the United States. Today, this seemed to have improved but only a fraction in the context of the entire global auto sales.
"We see that more customers are asking for electric vehicles, but the total number is still very small — between 2 and 5 percent of the market," Lührs said.
Electric Vehicles Are The Future
Mercedes, however, is bullish on the EV's prospect in the market. The automaker appears to believe that it will be the future of human transport or at least the next stage in the evolution of the auto industry.
It is worth noting that while it has not yet produced an electric vehicle, Mercedes also has access to Daimler AG's technology. Its parent company already has experience on the manufacture of EVs through its Car2Go subsidiary, which produces car-sharing oriented vehicles. According to Luhrs, the success of its EVs could be leveraged by the emergence of an EQ ecosystem, constituted not only by EVs but solutions, technologies and EV accessories that serve to enmesh consumers into the brand.
"There might be a new EQ S-class coming around the corner, and you're calling it through your EQ app," Lührs said. "We're talking about car sharing here — fewer cars on the road, a very friendly ecosystem, and very convenient. You don't have to call Uber. You call your EQ."