Mercedes-Benz gets ready to chase BMW with Tesla technology

Article by Andrew Christian, on November 5, 2014

As part of it pursuit of BMW in the luxury sales race, Mercedes-Benz is employing Tesla technology in its first mainstream electric car – the electric version of its B-class hatchback. The idea is simple and less costly -- Mercedes is just fitting in electric motor and battery into the B-class. This was a far cry from the approach BMW is taking, which is the costly approach by wrapping its EV offering with carbon fiber.

As for the Mercedes model, the only indications that it is an electric models are a number of small decals and the blue trim on the mirrors and front grille. By collaborating with Tesla, Mercedes could offer an electric vehicle endowed with advanced powertrain technology without having to invest billions of dollars on a system that few customer may want to buy.

Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences, remarked that the B-class electric is “a low-cost and low-risk solution for Daimler.” He noted that since the electric B class shares an assembly line with the gasoline and diesel versions, Mercedes doesn’t have to set a sales quota to cover its costs.

Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche remarked during a presentation of the electric B class that no carmaker today is building a battery-powered vehicle that is “economically viable in its own right.” He also quipped that EV makers will not see a return on the billions they are spending on the technology within a reasonable time.

Zetsche noted that the range, performance and interior space of the BMW i3 are very similar to those of the electric B class, although Daimler’s “effort was dramatically smaller.” BMW, however, won’t just let Mercedes have its way.

BMW counters the creating a new EV has advantages over re-fitting existing models. BMW spokesman Mathias Schmidt remarked that built-from-scratch EVs would have weight, drivability and range in ideal proportions. Mercedes will start selling the electric B class on Nov. 29, 2014 at price similar to the i3.

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