Mercedes-Benz says it will unveil an entirely new electric SUV concept at the Paris auto show in September. This will be the first vehicle developed by Mercedes as an electric car from the ground up. Until now, the only electric cars the company has offered for sale have been existing models retrofitted with electric power trains.
It still sells the B Class Electric, but that is hardly a “compelling car,” as Elon Musk likes to say. The company did make an electric version of its SLS 2 seat sports car in 2013. But with only 155 miles of range and a price tag near $500,000, it was hardly a worthy competitor for Tesla.
Like most German luxury carmakers, Mercedes has been slow to react to the challenge from Tesla. An outside observer could easily believe that Mercedes, along with Audi, BMW, and Porsche, never took Tesla seriously. As billionaire investor Ron Baron told CNBC on Tuesday, “The competition is not anywhere. They could have caught him [Elon Musk] four or five years ago. But they can’t catch him now. He’s too far ahead.” The Tesla Model S is outselling luxury sedans from Germany’s prestige automakers in their home market, a development that is hugely embarrassing to them individually and collectively.
Sources tell Autocar the concept will be the first in a series of electric Mercedes automobiles. It will be followed by a luxury sedan similar to the Model S. The first production electric car from Mercedes is not expected until 2019. Elon Musk says Tesla will be selling half a million electric cars a year or more by then.
The source says the concept and the production cars to follow will give designers a clean slate to create the Mercedes-badged cars of the future. Reportedly, they will not look like any cars previously available from the company. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean they will resemble the hideous Vision concept shown in Japan last year. That car would scare dogs and small children.
The idea of an electric SUV is good news for electric car enthusiasts. Until now, almost every electric car has been based on sedan architecture. Light trucks and SUVs are the two hottest segments of the market.
The Tesla Model X styles itself as an SUV, but apart from its higher stance and falcon-wing doors, but many claim it’s not really an SUV — more of a cool minivan. It will be interesting to see what Mercedes engineers and designers come up with with their “clean sheet” approach to making an electric SUV.