Mercedes-Benz Prepares Big Increase in Hybrid Car Production
Coming Soon: Hybrids in all Mercedes lines, including diesel-hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
Based strictly on past U.S. sales numbers, Mercedes-Benz has not been serious about hybrid cars. Between its Mercedes S400 Hybrid sedan and ML450 Hybrid SUV, the company sold 1,21 hybrid units in 2010—representing 0.6% of the overall hybrid market. Yet, Dr. Christian Mohrdieck, Daimler’s director of fuel cell and battery-drive development, last week told HybridCars.com that Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, is making a big investment in hybrids. “In the future, we will have hybrid models in all our car lines,” Mohrdieck said. “This is one step to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy.”
According to Mohrdieck, there will be “bigger numbers” of hybrids coming out in Mercedes’s E-Class, C-Class, R-Class, and M-Class vehicles. He also said that consumers should expect diesel-hybrids and plug-in hybrids in the United States. An S-Class plug-in hybrid concept offering 20 miles of all-electric range was first shown at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show. “Plug-in hybrid is a very good concept for bigger cars, but you have to look at the right balance of battery size and engine size, in order to have the right performance and acceptable cost level,” Mohrdieck said.
Daimler’s apparent slow start on hybrids could be a matter of perception—when viewing the company’s hybrid production from a global perspective. Mohrdieck said that the overall take-rate of the S400—the number of hybrids sold compared to the same model with a conventional powertrain—is about 15 to 20 percent worldwide. “It’s 15 percent on average, and in some markets it goes up to 20 percent.” Mohrdieck said that “China is crazy about hybrids,” and has become a big market for all Mercedes vehicles, including hybrids.
Meanwhile in the United States, in 2010 Mercedes sold four times as many clean diesel vehicles as hybrids—tallying nearly 8,000 sales or nearly 10 percent of the U.S. clean diesel market.
Dr. Mohrdieck said that Daimler is investing meaningful budgets to battery-electric and fuel cars, but not nearly as much as on internal combustion and hybrid cars, “because they are already high volume products…There will be a lot of hybrids in the near future,” said Mohrdieck.