Mercedes-Benz details electric vehicle strategy

Mercedes-Benz is fully embracing electric technology. Speaking during an annual strategy meeting, its top executives announced plans to release over half a dozen battery-powered models during the 2020s, including some assigned to sub-brands Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Maybach. Going electric will force the carmaker to make a few concessions, and it notably confirmed it will stop offering manual transmissions in the near future.

As of October 2020, the only series-produced electric car in the Mercedes portfolio is the EQC, a GLC-sized crossover whose American introduction has been delayed until 2021 at the earliest. It will soon be joined by the production version of the EQS concept, which which we’ve often spotted testing in some of the world’s most unwelcoming climates. It’s scheduled to reach showrooms in 2021, and it will be sold alongside the new S-Class.

Mercedes-Benz explained the EQS will inaugurate a platform named EVA developed specifically to underpin electric cars, and it will offer up to 435 miles of range when tested on the optimistic WLTP cycle. Its architecture will underpin at least three additional models. One will be a sedan called EQE, a name which suggests it will be to the E-Class what the EQS is to the S-Class. Unsurprisingly, each sedan will quickly spawn a crossover.

Images of fully-camouflaged prototypes released by the firm give us a peek at three of these EVs. It looks like the EQE borrows at least a handful of styling cues, including its sleek silhouette, from the bigger EQS. It appears to wear a far less conventional design than the E-Class. As for the EQS-based SUV, whose name hasn’t been published yet, it’s noticeably lower than the GLS and nowhere near as boxy as a G-Class. It almost blurs the line between a station wagon and a crossover, though we won’t know for sure until the camouflage comes off.

Looking ahead, Mercedes re-affirmed its plans to make an electric version of the G-Class off-roader. It also revealed AMG- and Maybach-badged EVs are in the pipeline, though it hasn’t shared their unveiling date.

Going electric remains exceptionally expensive, so Mercedes-Benz needs to save money in order to see its plans through. British magazine Autocar learned manual transmissions are on their way out of the company’s lineup, and its portfolio of gasoline- and diesel-burning engines will be severely reduced over the next few years.

“We need to reduce complexity. Complexity adds costs. We’re going to reduce future products, reduce platforms substantially, combustion engines will be very dramatically reduced, and we will eliminate the manual transmission,” confirmed Markus Schäfer, the company’s research and development boss.

He did not provide details about which nameplates, engines, and platforms will be consigned to the automotive attic. We know the two-door variants of the S-Class will not return, and unverified reports claim the CLS, the AMG GT Four-Door, and the B-Class people-mover sold in many global markets will retire without being replaced.

While purists will denounce the company’s decision to go automatic-only, this shift has been on-going for over a decade. In the United States, there is not a single Mercedes-Benz model available with three pedals. Even in Europe, which is the manual transmission’s last bastion, an overwhelming majority of the company’s cars are ordered with an automatic, and manuals are normally reserved for entry-level variants of smaller cars.

It will be interesting to watch how Mercedes-Benz’s shift towards electrification affects its Formula One team. On one hand, it’s the sport’s reigning champion, and the highly-publicized first-place finishes help enhance its image. On the other hand, racing costs a not-insignificant amount of money that could instead be used for research and development, and burning fuel for glory flies right into the teeth of its increasingly loud “zero-emissions” message.

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