By Steve Hanley
Thomas Weber, the head of development at Mercedes-Benz, recently spoke with Germany’s highly respected Auto Motor und Sport (AMUS) magazine and said his company is working on a “concept for a highly attractive electric vehicle with a range of 400–500 kilometers (228–311 miles),” according to Motor Trend.
What does that mean? For one, it means that tiny Tesla is forcing mighty Mercedes to do something it doesn’t want to do — build a Mercedes electric car. That’s because the Tesla Model S is eating into sales of its high-profit S Class sedan in many markets, particularly in Europe and the USA (some big markets). According to a recent article in Forbes, Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) at the University of Duisburg-Essen, says wealthy people who have previously bought the flagship Mercedes S-Class are turning now to the Tesla Model S. (See: Tesla Model S Was The 2nd Best-Selling Large Luxury Car In America, 1st In 2013.)
In a report called “Tesla asserts itself in the luxury class,” Dudenhoeffer says that even in markets like Germany and Switzerland, where there are no subsidies for electric vehicles, the Tesla Model S is grabbing sales from the likes of the Mercedes S class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8. “Tesla can boast real innovation and customers with big money are trying it,” he says.
Thomas Weber’s remarks don’t give us very much information regarding the all-electric Mercedes concept. The first question an astute observer should ask is whether the range estimates quoted are from the European test cycle or the American one? The US standard typically results in numbers that are about 1/3 lower than the ones those on The Continent report. If so, that would make Mercedes’ claims rather unimpressive.
The second question is whether the Mercedes offering will be built as an electric car from the ground up like the Tesla is. The Tesla approach puts the weight of the battery pack as low in the chassis as possible, which leads to excellent stability and handling. Other manufacturers are content to stuff the battery cells wherever they can find space in an existing chassis, which compromises performance.
The third question is whether the Mercedes offering will offer the same thrilling acceleration the Tesla does, because if it doesn’t, the reaction from customers will be a big yawn. If Weber is correct, we won’t have to wait long to get the answers to these questions.
Also, price? Arrival date?
Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz