The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, very possibly the “best car in the world,” is going electric, Mercedes-Benz’s CEO Dieter Zetsche said Wednesday. And not just hybrid, which you can already get with the S550e. No, this will be full-on electric, and a challenge to Tesla, who has recently been beating them on their own turf.
The new full-size sedan has a working name of the EQ S, and is part of a promised fleet of 10 new all-electric vehicles by 2022. Like all automaker promises, this one should be taken with a grain of salt, though in this case Mercedes has one powerful incentive to following through: China, where demand for electric vehicles is skyrocketing. Further, Mercedes is making this move while it’s still on top in terms of sales and profit, meaning that money won’t be much of an issue.
Mercedes had record deliveries and profit last year as it defended the global top luxury spot against BMW’s namesake brand and Volkswagen AG’s Audi marque. But surging costs for the development of battery-powered cars and new digital offerings, plus possible trade barriers in the U.S. and China — Mercedes’s two largest markets — threaten to weigh on profit margins.
“We have to increase flexibility in local production as the world in general has become more volatile,” Zetsche said. He reiterated it was too early to comment on potential risks from trade barriers, adding that recent developments in Russia related to stricter planned U.S. sanctions coincided with more encouraging signals in China about potentially easing rules for outside investors.
This news, of course, isn’t terribly surprising, as Company Does Thing You Expect It To Do. More interesting will be if Mercedes can stick the landing with its all-electrics, and if anyone will actually buy them, since most people buy an S-Class for luxurious, opulent, selfish power, not necessarily to save the world.