The Mercedes-AMG Project One hypercar might have stolen all the limelight at the Mercedes-Benz unveiling before the official opening of the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, but the diminutive Smart Vision EQ ForTwo is just as important to the future DNA of Daimler globally according to the man who should know.
"We will actively shape the future of mobility, and invest massively in our future," said Dr Dieter Zetsche, chairman and head of Mercedes-Benz cars.
That investment won't be solely directed at electrification just yet, even though sub-brand Smart is set to become the company's first brand to switch from a internal combustion to a full electric lineup.
"It is a fact that it is worth improving modern diesel engines rather than banning them altogether," Zetsche said. "We will commit three billion euros toward the further development of diesel engines. Further, zero emissions mobility is our mid-term goal and by 2022 we will electrify our entire portfolio."
While that idea sounds a little pie in the sky now, what it means in practice is one electrified variant per model series within the Mercedes-Benz portfolio.
"We are planning to have more than 50 electrified offerings," Zetsche said. "It is right that public discourse has become more rational, but anyone who believes that mobility will become more sustainable by banning a particular fuel is missing the point."
Zetsche went on to explain Mercedes-Benz believes an electric car is only as good as the electricity it uses, and that there is no one correct decision or solution to the future of mobility. Rather, the future will take many forms and many options.
"We won't be able to find a solution overnight either," he said. "For customers, it means mobility will become even more diverse. The Project One and the Smart both represent two concepts that couldn't be more opposing."
The Project One is all fire and brimstone, with more than 1000hp (746kW), 0-200km/h in less than six seconds, four electric motors, Formula One aero technology, and an engine developed by Lewis Hamilton.
On the other hand, the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo concept is a window into the future of urban transport in ever more clogged cities.
"It's about sharing and personalisation, a practical and creative concept for individual mobility," Zetsche said. "It is emissions free and autonomous, with no wheel or pedals and customisation will know no limits."
The cleverness of the Smart (no pun intended) comes from what it can do when it's not being driven. The glass surfaces for example, can be used as display monitors to show football scores, weather information, the time of day, so that they become an active and useful part of the city when parked.
Zetsche explained that you can order and operate the Smart concept entirely via your smartphone. "More luggage than usual?" he said. "Order a second Smart to follow behind you."
With Smart set to go completely electric in the not too distant future, Mercedes-Benz is also working on other elements of the process - charging for example.
"We envision inductive charging," Zetsche said. "By the end of this decade, Smart goes fully electric and it will be the first auto brand to be consistently switched from internal combustion to a pure electric portfolio."
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