There are four key pillars to Mercedes-Benz’s future mobility strategy, and cars are just one part of the puzzle. Under its CASE strategy – that’s Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electrification – the move to electric-drive is fundamental.
By 2025, Mercedes-Benz expect to see 15 to 25 percent of its sales volume as electric vehicles, and that is with just ten models projected to be available.
But the move isn’t without its risks.
Will the technology align with market acceptance in time for Mercedes’ ambitious goals to reach fruition? CarAdvice spoke with Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, Head of Research and Development for Mercedes-Benz, at the 2016 Paris Motor Show. He acknowledged the multiple moving pieces. “Confidence? Never. There is still an uncertainty around pricing. Will the customer really jump, will they like it?”
Despite this, Mercedes-Benz is funnelling more money into R&D, with 2015 seeing a 17 per-cent increase to a record €4.7bn annual budget. That’s about A$15m, per day, on research.
Of this, about 50 per cent is focused on ‘green’, but this includes aerodynamics as well as the electrified drivetrain. It also needs to account for extra development under the C, A and S pillars of the new Mercedes strategy.
This will not leave combustion engines by the wayside, either. Despite a practically non-existent diesel market in China and a very small share in the USA, Europe still has around 50 per cent of sales with diesel, and Mercedes-Benz still has a very active truck and bus division.
“I don’t see any opportunity to believe that in the foreseeable future that we can do mobility without diesel,” said Weber.
With improvements being made in terms of efficiency and cleanliness, diesel still has a ways to go… but it wont be around for ever. “At the moment we don’t see something,” said Weber, “but yes, we will see some pressure in the future.”
And while electric mobility may seem like a long-game investment with limited payoff, with even full-EV company Tesla struggling to turn a profit, Prof Weber joked that Mercedes-Benz “is the only one earning money with electro mobility, with the selling of their (Tesla) shares.”