Mercedes doesn’t share VW’s conviction that take-up of electric cars will be widespread and swift. Sure, there are 11 new Mercedes EVs due for launch in 2019-2021, but there’s a major programme of internal-combustion development continuing in parallel.
A product-planning insider explains the thinking: ‘If EVs take off like a rocket in the next two years, Mercedes would indeed be caught off-guard. But we expect a more gradual transition.’ Compact cars being planned now are designed to be agnostic about their power source – similar to the PSA approach.
Running EV and ICE teams simultaneously is an expensive business, so savings are being made by reducing the number of low-selling variants in the line-up. For instance, there’s a plan to create one coupe to replace the GT 4-Door, CLS and SL Coupe. Sports cars, traditional hatchbacks and saloons are expected to continue their decline – although not all sales trends apply globally – while crossovers and SUVs continue to boom. Expect the next B-Class and A-Class to have more of a crossover and coupe bias, rather than remain purely as a tall MPV and hatchback.
The original R-Class was a heavy, expensive, poor-selling oddball. But perhaps it was simply ahead of its time, by more than a decade. A resurrection of the concept is being mooted, with China and the USA the chief projected markets. It would be a luxurious seven-seat cruiser, along the lines of the recently unveiled Lexus LM, itself a version of the Toyota Alphard (not sold in the UK). In other news from the land that taste forgot, a Maybach version of the GLS mega-SUV is also being considered.
The next-generation C-Class, due in 2021, is expected to get a new variant: a four-door coupe. It’ll run along the lines of the smaller CLA and bigger CLS, and take on the BMW 4-series Gran Coupe and Audi A5 Sportback.
AMG is reported to be working with Magna and Rimac on high-performance EV-only componentry for a variety of uses. And elsewhere within the Merc empire, development continues on hydrogen fuel cells, potentially expanding beyond the GLC F-Cell. The future is uncertain, of that Mercedes is certain.