Daimler and Mercedes-Benz will hope to generate some positive headlines at their home motor show with a new hypercar and an important EV concept.
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance: Daimler has announced a dynamic line-up of new models and concept cars that it will display at the flagship motor show for the German industry in Frankfurt in September.
- Implications: The company's Mercedes-Benz passenger car brand will have a wide-range range of vehicles on display, from the forthcoming Mercedes-AMG Project ONE hypercar to a concept EQ electric car that will hint at the company's compact bespoke EV under the EQ nameplate. Smart will also have an intriguing future urban mobility concept show.
- Outlook: Daimler's Mercedes-Benz car brand is looking to put on a strong show at Frankfurt that shows across-the-board investment in a range of new models. It hopes to consolidate the position it won last year from BMW as the world's leading premium car brand, and show that it remains committed to brand-building and preparing for the forthcoming gradual shift to electromobility.
Daimler has announced a fascinating mix of concepts and new production models for the forthcoming Frankfurt Motor Show which will show off its plans for performance, luxury and future mobility focused-models. According to a company press release the highlight of Mercedes-Benz's stand at the show will be the long-anticipated Mercedes-AMG Project ONE hypercar, which is the first Mercedes-branded outright hypercar. The Project ONE has an obvious USP in the fact that it will use a road-tuned version of Mercedes-Benz's all-conquering Formula One hybrid V-6 turbocharged powertrain. Earlier in the year the head of AMG Tobias Moers confirmed that development was already well advanced with extensive prototype track testing have already taken place. In terms of how Mercedes and AMG will translate its Formula One technology for customer use on the road, Moers said, "We expect to develop a special program to support owners, but using the car will not be as complicated as many prospective customers seem to expect. Because of the F1 technology in the car, people are asking me 'will I need a support crew or dedicated fuel to run it,' - and my answer is always no. This will be a street car. You keep it plugged in in the garage. You fill it with '98' when you buy fuel. That's it.". Only 275 units of the production Project 1 F1-powered road car will be offered to customers, with a price tag close to USD3 million.
Perhaps the most potentially important model for Mercedes-Benz on display at Frankfurt will be the compact concept EV that will carry the company's EQ sub-brand, which signifies its future standalone electric car range. The company debuted the original EQ concept car, which introduced the concept of Mercedes-Benz's future electric car programme, at last year's Paris Motor Show, but this model was a SUV-D concept and prefigures the first EQ which is scheduled to go on sale in 2019. This model debuted Mercedes' new EV platform architecture, which the new compact concept will also share. The D-segment EQ based on last year's concept, which will be a similar size and price to a "reasonably-well equipped GLC-Class" according to Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, will be the first EQ on sale in 2020, but the production version of the concept shown at Frankfurt is likely to be the best-selling EQ model. Another important concept that could show the way the Smart brand could tackle future mobility will also be on display. Interestingly, this will be badged as a Smart EQ , which shows that the sub-brand is likely to be extended to encompass Daimler's city car brand. This concept will be fully autonomous and will embody Daimler's CASE future mobility strategy: "Connected", "Autonomous", "Shared" and "Electric". Daimler says the new concept will "stand for maximum mobility efficiency in and for the urban environment thanks to systematic further development of the carsharing concept, and makes the vision of individualised, highly flexible urban public transport a reality."
The company is also showing a pre-production prototype in the form of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell EQ Power, which has a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) fuel cell powertrain. This model shows that OEMs are still investing heavily in fuel cell technology as being a component of the future powertrain, and Daimler – as one of the global proponents of the technology – is committing further with what it describes as a "pre-series model" which has a 500-km range in the standard cycle and short hydrogen fuelling times with locally emission-free driving. In terms of production-ready metal, Mercedes-Benz will also debut the full facelift of the S-Class Coupé and Cabriolet to match the recent comprehensive refresh of the class-leading S-Class limousine, in standard and AMG versions.
Outlook and implications
This impressive array of concepts, pre-production models and production-ready models shows that Mercedes-Benz is keeping its foot on the gas in terms of maintaining its position as the world's number one premium passenger car brand, a title that it took from the BMW passenger car brand in 2016. The compact EQ is particularly interesting as the production model is likely to become Mercedes-Benz's best-selling electric passenger car. In IHS Markit's forecast, we currently have the compact EQ model down as a passenger car design, which would indicate a model similar in size to the A-Class, with a similar relationship to the VW Golf and the forthcoming C-segment VW I.D EV likely. IHS Markit forecasts an on-sale date of 2022 for this model, although it is possible that this could be brought slightly forward when the concept is announced at Frankfurt. IHS Markit is forecasting sales of 41,000 units by 2023, by which time it will be the best-selling EQ model on sale. Daimler plans to have 10 separate EQ models on sale by 2025. It will also be intriguing to see what form the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE hypercar will take. Its Formula One-developed powertrain will be at the heart of the car and will be at the centre of focus for media attention at the show. It will be particularly interesting to see how Mercedes and AMG will configure the powertrain for road use, with the obvious issues surrounding such a thoroughbred powertrain with regards to drivability and longevity in the context of being used for every day driving. However, AMG's CEO Moers has previously said he does not foresee this as being a problem. Back in April he was quoted as saying, "Our F1 engine is far more durable than many people expect, and if you look at the load it must take in an F1 race compared to how it's likely to be used in a street-legal machine, you can see it's going to have a lot less work to do." Daimler will also hope that the Frankfurt Motor Show will provide a welcome positive distraction to the scrutiny it and the other German OEMs currently face, given the prospect of a European Commission investigation into alleged collusion and the agreement by the German OEMs to recall 5.3 million diesel vehicles currently on the country's roads to introduce engine software which will lower NOx emissions by between 25% and 30%, although this is likely to be more in hope than expectation given how central the conduct of the German automotive industry has become a central issue in the forthcoming German general election.
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