In an interview with auto motor und sport magazine, the new Mercedes development chief Olla Kallenius spoke about the main focus of his work: connectivity, autonomous driving, car sharing and electric mobility.
What are the main targets in your new position?
Källenius: The most important topics were present at the CES: connectivity, autonomous driving, car sharing and electromobility. These four megatrends will really change the car industry.
You have become the No. 1. premium brand in 2016, ahead of BMW. How do you plan on keeping this position?
Källenius: Regarding the model policy, we will increase the model range from 33 models to over 40 by 2020. By 2025, we will also bring under the EQ label, at least ten electrified models (until now there are 4 models confirmed – two SUVs and two sedans – note: on mercedesblog.com). In these 40 models, we are not talking about pure niche models, but rather volume relevant new developments.
In addition to the products, the development of the markets is just as important and China has a crucial role. An major part of our growth strategy is the digitilization of sales and new response forms to the customer.
The front drive architecture has also contributed to this success. Will you further expand it?
Kallenius: Yes, this is very important. The A-Class, B-Class, CLA, CLA Shooting Brake and the GLA have been of great importance for us in the development of the design, as well as in the driving fun. In total, we have sold more than two million units of the current front drive architecture generation since 2012. And the next generation also has great potential.
BMW wants to come back to more emotional design and stronger differentiation of the series. These themes are also interesting for Mercedes in the future?
Källenius: Design is extremely important. With the A-Class we have an even more expressive display than with the S-Class. On the one hand, there is a spreading in the design and on the other hand, nevertheless, a red thread. With the E-Class Coupé comes the first evolutionary stage, where we go much more into the body design of the car. We have already taken the first step towards a new design direction, and more will follow. Just look at the EQ study. This is yet a show car, but the production car will not be far behind.
With the new A-Class, they occupy the topic of connectivity. What will the difference be between the series when they receive all the innovations directly? How about the room offer?
Källenius: When it comes to connectivity, it is important that we offer intelligent networking across the entire model range. After all, we have many customers who do not just drive a Mercedes, but have different models within the family. In the S-Class, the whole is even more spectacularly staged. This cannot be surpassed in the upper luxury segment. The A-Class must definitely be half a class above its competition when it comes to its appeal.
Will these digital services become a relevant part of the Mercedes business?
Kallenius: Yes, but not so fast. Of course, the sales of the cars predominantly dominate. If I spend an average of 60,000 Euros on a Mercedes, I have to sell a lot of services to get the same value. But I believe that we will quickly reach hundreds of millions of Euros, and then it will be interesting.
What is yout opinion about the autonomous driving car without a steering wheel?
Källenius: Level 4 or Level 5 of autonomous driving will follow. I believe that this process will accelerate between 2020 and 2025. We have not had a car without a steering wheel and without pedals until now, because we would have had to master Level 5, which can take a bit longer. But if there will be a perfectly mapped city, in which we have gained so much experience in practice, we can drive autonomously there. If you drive out of the city then you should be able to use steering wheel and pedals again.
The diesel will become more and more expensive for the small series. Will you continue to offer diesel models in the compact class?
Källenius: According to our market assessment, by 2025, we will assume a proportion of approximately 15 to 25 percent pure electric models from the EQ family. The rest, 75 to 85 percent of the models, will have a combustion engine, of course, often as a plug-in. So we need economical, low-emission and high-performance diesel and gasoline engines. Beyond 2030, we could have a significant change, but we don’t know know how big this change will be. Now, in the next eight, ten, or twelve years we cannot simply cut off the conventional propulsion.
Are you ready to meet the CO2 targets by 2021?
Kallenius: It’s a big challenge. We are determined to reach them, but this is a hard work.