Mercedes-Benz is planning its own distinct line of electric vehicles, challenging BMW and Tesla Motors Inc. in a bet that alternative-fuel cars have the potential to become profitable.
Mercedes will add two electric sport utility vehicles and two sedans, according to two people familiar with the plan. Mercedes will create a new sub-brand for the cars, though a name hasn’t been chosen yet.
Mercedes had previously stuck to adding batteries and electric motors to existing models, a cheaper solution than rival BMW AG’s investment in carbon fiber and futuristic design for its “i” brand. Now their positions are reversed: BMW’s holding off on a new “i” model for another five years. Mercedes will start selling its electric line-up before the end of the decade, one of the people familiar with the plans said.
In addition to the e-cars, Mercedes parent Daimler AG is planning its first all-electric heavy-duty delivery truck by the start of the next decade. The company has also promised electric versions of each of the vehicles in the Smart city-car brand.
“When Tesla started coming up many years ago we decided at the time, and I believe correctly, that the technology wasn’t quite ready,” Wolfgang Bernhard, Daimler’s trucks chief, said in an interview last week at the urban e-truck’s unveiling. “Now we believe the time has come to earn money in e-mobility over the next five to 10 years.”
The first of the new electric autos will be produced at the company’s factory in Bremen, Germany. From next year, the Bremen plant will also build a fuel-cell electric version of the GLC SUV that can be charged both with hydrogen and at a wall socket.
The prototype set to be introduced in September will be an SUV capable of driving about 500 km on a single charge. It will also show the distinct design Mercedes has developed to set its electric cars apart. – Bloomberg