Mercedes-Benz Group AG unveiled an electric vehicle with a longer range than any Tesla Inc. model on the market as the German luxury-car maker intensifies its bid to challenge Elon Musk.
(Bloomberg) — Mercedes-Benz Group AG unveiled an electric vehicle with a longer range than any Tesla Inc. model on the market as the German luxury-car maker intensifies its bid to challenge Elon Musk.
The company presented a near-production concept of its CLA sedan rated to go more than 750 kilometers (466 miles) on a charge, beating Tesla’s refreshed Model 3. The car is Mercedes’s first based on its upcoming EV underpinnings, with a battery system that can add 400 kilometers of range in just 15 minutes of charging.
“We’re taking it to the next level,” Mercedes Chief Technology Officer Markus Schäfer said Sunday in an interview ahead of the IAA car show in Munich. “This car is extremely important for innovation reasons and to push the limits for what we can do with a series car.”
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Mercedes is under pressure to bolster its lineup after disappointing sales in China forced the company to cut prices on some of its electric models. The new CLA, though, is some time away and won’t hit showrooms until the first half of 2025, Chief Executive Officer Ola Källenius said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
BMW AG on Saturday unveiled its own next-generation EV, a sleek coupe featuring a digital display projected onto the entire width of the windscreen. BMW’s prototype will also take until around mid-decade to go on sale.
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Mercedes is trying to fend off Tesla and bolster sales in China, where customers are increasingly going for homegrown brands such as BYD Co. and Nio Inc. that have been better at building EVs with software geared to local tastes. The company has a goal to sell only EVs where possible by the end of this decade and plans to set up eight battery factories with partners.
While the luxury-car maker isn’t affected by a price war on EVs in China, the period for rapid growth in the biggest auto market may be over, Källenius said.
“After 30, 40 years of an economic wonder, they’re reaching a level of maturity where you’re dealing with structural issues,” he said. “We have to take a little bit of a cautious stance on that and see how things develop, and not expect rapid growth as far as the economy is concerned in the short term.”
The CLA concept lacks the bowed roof line of the brand’s EQS and EQE sedans. While their low-slung roof makes them more aerodynamic, increasing their range, the design also reduces headroom in the rear-seating compartment. That’s a drawback in the Chinese market, where wealthy customers often prefer to be chauffeured.
Mercedes is pursuing a strategy to bolster margins by focusing resources on top-end vehicles including the Maybach limousines, AMG performance cars and G-Wagon off-roader, while shifting away from less profitable entry-level models like the compact A-Class.
The new CLA concept sets out how the manufacturer will try to defend its position in the entry-level luxury segment where Mercedes tries to attract younger customers, competing with volume manufacturers like Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp.
–With assistance from Oliver Crook.
(Updates with CEO comment on CLA launch in fourth paragraph)
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