Is the Mercedes electrification strategy wrong?

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The sales of Mercedes electric models are not at the expected level, and Mercedes is trying to change some things on the fly. Is it too late? Where did Mercedes go wrong?

Is the EVA II platform truly “The Best or Nothing?”

Mercedes EQS, the electric equivalent of the Mercedes S-Class, was launched in the fall of 2021. Mercedes had high hopes for the new EVA II platform, which launched later three more models: EQE, EQS SUV, and EQE SUV plus the AMG and Maybach derivatives.

But the sales were far below expectations if we compare especially the S-Class with the EQS. Mercedes wanted the EQS to be a showcase of technology, and to achieve low energy consumption, it designed a very aerodynamic body, with a record Cx of 0.20. But the very aerodynamic shape of the body has turned against Mercedes because access to the rear seats is made difficult by the roof that descends towards the back. And in this segment, the owners of a Mercedes EQS that costs between 110,000 and 150,000 euros plus options mostly sit in the back seat.

Also, due to the high costs of developing a dedicated electric platform, Mercedes had to make compromises in terms of materials, which were not at the level of the S-Class.

Thirdly, the slogan “The Best or Nothing” does not apply to the EQE/EQS range because they are built on a platform with 400V technology. Thus, the EQS charges a maximum of 200 kW, while much cheaper cars, such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5/6 or Kia EV6/EV9, charge up to 270 kW, having platforms with 800V technology.

In addition, the prices of EQE/EQS models and their derivatives are very high. Kia recently launched the EV9, which offers a luxury lounge interior with six individual seats and power close to the EQS 500 4Matic SUV for 50,000 euros less.

What could Mercedes do?

The German manufacturer is already planning a facelift for the EQS range, increasing the battery capacity to 118 kWh for the EQS SUV, and the same modification will be applied to the limousine. Also, the battery capacity of the EQE/EQE SUV will increase from 90.6 to 96 kWh.

There is unconfirmed information that Mercedes will modify the EVA II platform to replace the 400V platform with a more modern 800V one called EVA II M. With this occasion, Mercedes will replace the Valeo engines with their own eATS 2.0 engines that also support 800V technology. However, the change from 400V to 800V technology is a major change that involves very high costs.
Secondly, to allow better access to the rear, the shape of the body cannot be radically changed during the facelift because the costs would be very high. Instead, there is the possibility to improve some interior materials.

In this context, it would be much more convenient for Mercedes to directly adopt the MB.EA platform for EQE/EQS, which will be ready in 2025 for the new GLC Electric, and C-Class Electric models. Of course, in this case, the life cycle of EQE/EQS would be only 3 and 4 years, respectively, compared to 7-8 years, and this short life cycle would not amortize the enormous investments made in the electric dedicated platform EVA II. But without the opportunity to fix the main criticisms brought to the EQE/EQS, sales will not improve significantly even after the facelift.

Electric range planning error: the lack of an electric C-Class and a modern electric GLC

Mercedes has no electric models in one of the most productive market segments, that of the middle class. Here, Tesla has already sold more than 1 million Tesla Model Y and Model 3. Indeed, even Audi has not had a model in this segment until now, but the carmaker from Ingolstadt has recently launched the new Audi Q6 e-tron, which will be available for purchase in the summer. The Q6 e-tron is based on a modern platform, PPE, developed together with Porsche.

Mercedes had an attempt to enter this segment with the Mercedes EQC in September 2019, but this model, which went out of production in the summer of 2023 due to poor sales, was too much of a compromise. It was built on a conventional platform, had a reduced range, and could not be configured with air suspension.

Now, Mercedes is on the right track, in 2025 to launch the first models on the new electric dedicated platform MB.EA. The electric Mercedes C-Class and the electric Mercedes GLC (the EQ particle will disappear from the name of the electric models) will compete with the Audi Q6 e-tron but also with the BMW i4 and future BMW models from the Neue Klasse family, a sedan and an SUV successor to the iX3.

In all these years that it was absent from the segment, Tesla sold a lot of Model 3 and Model Y, and BMW had some success with the BMW i4, marketed at very competitive prices.

Compact range: too expensive

As with BMW, Mercedes launched two compact electric models based on classic platforms: EQA and EQB. But both are more expensive than BMW iX1, and both BMW iX1 and Mercedes EQA are very expensive compared to Tesla Model Y, being compact class models while Model Y is a middle-class SUV.

In the case of the upcoming compact range, Mercedes’ strategy is not clear. The CLA Concept presented at the Munich Motor Show in the autumn of 2023 is as big as the future electric C-Class. The difference between them is that the Mercedes C-Class Electric will be built on the dedicated MB.EA electric platform, while the CLA will use the new MMA multi-propulsion platform that supports PHEV and conventional propulsion in addition to electric propulsion.

If in the case of the current Mercedes C-Class and CLA models (CLA Shooting brake and C-Class T-Model), which also had a similar footprint, the differentiation was made by the type of traction, now there would be no differentiation in the case of electric models.

The current Mercedes C-Class is built on the rear-wheel drive MRA II platform, and the Mercedes CLA is based on the front-wheel-drive
MFA II platform.

If in the case of the future EQA/EQB, there will be a difference compared to the electric GLC due to the different dimensions, this separation will not exist in the case of the C-Class/GLA.

The decision to give up the A-Class when BMW keeps the Series 1 and Audi is going to build an electric A3 seems like another mistake. Today, the cheapest electric model from Mercedes, the EQA 250, costs more than 50,000 euros without any optional equipment.

One Comment

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