Newsflash: Mercedes Mythos als Maybach niet luxueus genoeg is


+++ “The ECONOMICS OF DESIRE ” is how Mercedes named its strategy update announced this week. Some big changes are planned as the 3-pointed star will focus more on bigger and pricier models to the detriment of its entry-level offerings. The number of compact cars will be cut from the existing 7 models to just 4 for the newly announced “Entry Luxury” class. The German marque is reserving less than 25 percent of total investments for it. One of the new entry-level models was teased by chief designer Gorden Wagener during the presentation, so naturally, we had to take a screenshot. He refrained from going into any specific details, only saying the mysterious car will be “the most sophisticated, technologically advanced car with everything digital inside. I can promise you it’s a true luxury car in that segment.” Ok, but what exactly are we looking at? Well, it appears to be a sleek saloon, which leads us to believe it might be the next-generation CLA. With Mercedes saying it will cut back on the number of compact cars, it might merge the A-Class Saloon and CLA into a single model. We could go on speculating the CLA Shooting Brake doesn’t have a bright future either, but nothing is official at this point. The model in question is expected to ride on the already announced MMA platform scheduled to debut in 2024. The architecture will be electric-first but not electric-exclusive. In other words, Mercedes’ engineers are developing the hardware primarily for EVs and will make compromises in terms of packaging for the ICE models. It’s the exact opposite of the strategy used for the EQA, EQB, and EQC crossovers as the three electric vehicles originate from ICE platforms. Lessons learned from the Vision EQXX concept car will be put to good use in these new compact models, so range anxiety should finally become a thing of the past even in smaller vehicles. In an interview with earlier this year, Mercedes-Benz chief technology officer Markus Schäfer warned us that EVs will still be more expensive than ICEs as cost parity won’t be achieved in the foreseeable future. +++


+++ GENERAL MOTORS is now fully committed to a future of electric cars in all classes, shapes, and sizes. The automaker now suggests that producing and selling an entire lineup of EVs that will eventually be on sale at the same time will work to promote sales. GM believes that the upcoming “full portfolio” plan will play out much better than its individual efforts in the past. When it comes to EVs, General Motors was an early adopter, producing and selling the EV1 toward the end of the 1990s. The company went on to offer the Chevrolet Volt in 2010 and the Chevrolet Bolt EV in 2016. Sadly, the EV1 program was cancelled since the automaker couldn’t make a profit, and most of the cars were crushed. The Volt and Bolt EV have seen decent sales, but nothing for GM to be overly excited about. GM President Mark Reuss admitted that GM was tentative about EVs in the past, though he also said that the company has learned a great deal from its previous electric car efforts. Reuss noted that selling a single electric car with no other electrified models in the lineup made for a difficult situation. More specifically, he said it was hard to market and promote the solitary model’s benefits while also selling an entire lineup of petrol-powered vehicles. Reuss admitted: “The company, at that time when we launched the original Bolt, was afraid and didn’t really get behind it. We would have liked to have had a portfolio of electric vehicles to go to market with. It’s hard to put one car in market and have anybody get behind it in a sales network”. In the past, we provided multiple reports of various automakers seemingly working to “anti-sell” their electrified options. Some well-known CEOs even advised consumers not to buy EVs, and there were very few advertisements or commercials. Meanwhile, many automotive manufacturers were pushing back against stricter fuel economy and emissions requirements. Reuss added: “We made our own mistakes, and now we are pretty focused on what the right formula is. We’ll take that and really go at it.” Today, with many auto companies producing and selling multiple EVs, we’re seeing growing support for the segment, complete with Super Bowl commercials and the like. Meanwhile, GM has said time and time again that it will launch a whole host of EVs by 2025, and it aims to surpass Tesla as the EV leader around that time. By 2035, GM hopes to have a fully electric portfolio of vehicles. General Motors CEO Mary Barra recently shared in an interview: “We’re taking all the steps to do it. We have said that by mid-decade, we will be selling more EVs in this country than anyone else, including Tesla”. Aside from the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV, GM’s first new electric vehicles include the pricey GMC Hummer EV pickup and Cadillac Lyriq crossover. However, a Chevrolet Silverado EV and a fully electric Equinox are in the works, among many other options. All GM’s future EVs will be purpose-built vehicles riding on the automaker’s Ultium global platform. Along with the Equinox EV, GM plans to bring several electric cars to market with starting prices of around $30,000. During a recent interview, CEO Barra also said: “Remember, we’re not necessarily just selling at the premium end. We’re going to have electric vehicles affordable at $30,000”. +++

+++ MERCEDES held a presentation this week about how it plans to channel more than 75 percent of its investments toward C-Class-sized vehicles and up while simplifying the lineup of entry-level cars. Although some small models will be axed, the total number of available vehicles carrying the 3-pointed star won’t decrease. That’s because the EQ family of fully electric models is in the midst of an expansion, with an EQE SUV coming later this year. A teaser image depicting the vehicle’s side profile made an appearance in the background while Gorden Wagener was talking about the EQ sub-brand. The Mercedes design boss labeled it as a little brother of the larger EQS SUV unveiled a little over a month ago. Gorden Wagener pointed out it’s going to look substantially different than the GLE, going as far as to say it’ll be much sportier and sleeker while having a more aerodynamic body. Having seen the EQE saloon, we don’t really need a crystal ball to see into the future of Mercedes’ next electric SUV. With the boys and girls working in Affalterbach eager to AMG all the things, you can rest assured there will be a high-performance version. In fact, a spicy prototype has already been caught on camera while undergoing testing. Technical specifications of the drivetrain should mirror those of the saloon, which offers 476 bhp and 850 Nm in ’43’ guise and 625 hp and 950 Nm if you step up to the ’53’ model. Much like the larger EQS SUV, the upcoming electric vehicle will be assembled by Mercedes in the United States at the Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama. The world premiere is scheduled to take place in the coming months, with sales likely beginning before the end of 2022. The hotter AMGs should follow sometime next year. +++


+++ Mercedes-Benz will launch the ultra-luxurious MYTHOS SERIES sub-brand that will sit above the already opulent Maybach nameplate. During its Economics of Desire strategy update, the automaker showed an image of an SL Speedster as a future product from the new marque. Mythos Series models will be very low-volume. This vehicle “will be made available exclusively to the most dedicated enthusiasts and collectors of Mercedes-Benz”, the automaker wrote in a statement announcing the subbrand. The company isn’t saying when the first of these products arrives. The teaser image shows the SL in profile with only the upper portion of the vehicle visible. Nacelles are visible behind the seats, and this is the only obvious styling tweak, judging by what we can see. During the Economics of Desire presentation, Mercedes also announced an expansion of the Maybach brand. This will include a luxurious variant of the SL. Plus, the marque will also launch a version of the EQS SUV in 2023. Maybach recently showed the ultra-opulent Haute Voiture concept based on the S-Class. It features a 2-tone paint scheme with a rose gold lower section and a nautical blue upper area. Things are really special inside where it has bouclé fabric in blue, beige, and rose gold on the door panels and on portions of the seats. Fluffy white faux fur covers the floor mats. Rose gold trim on the door trim and dashboard adds even more opulence. A limited-run production version of the Haute Voiture is coming in early 2023. Pricing is expected to be well in excess of €300.000 in the Netherlands. With all of these high-end models, Mercedes-Benz wants to be “the world’s most valuable luxury car brand”. In the Economics of Desire presentation, the company says the way to do that is to cut the number of what it calls “Entry Luxury” models from 7 to 4. Also, 75 percent of future investments are going towards larger, more expensive vehicles. By 2026, Mercedes wants to boost sales of its “Top-End” products by 60 percent compared to numbers in 2019. +++


+++ Chinese copycat cars are nowhere near as common as they were a decade ago, as local automakers from the People’s Republic are building better and more original cars, thanks in part to the many designers and engineers they are now able to poach from competitive, established automakers. But clones are not dead in China, as these images clearly showing an OLD MINI COOPER would suggest. A Chinese company called Beijing Estech Technology just applied for a patent on a design that is very clearly an old Mini. Sure, there are some changes, mainly centred around the front end which has a slightly smoother, more streamlined design, but other than that, the design and proportions appear to be identical to those of the original. But you really have to compare photos of the icon and this copycat effort to really spot the difference: they did not even try to hide the source of their design for this vehicle, like previous copycat car designers have tried to do by melding design features from other vehicles to try to deny what they copied in the first place… No word on specs yet, but according to the source, the vehicle will most likely stick to the front-wheel drive layout of the original, with a motor under the bonnet, driving only the front wheels. Keep in mind that the company behind this may choose to make it slightly bigger than the original in order to give more interior room; the dimensions were not mentioned in the patent application, so we can’t yet state it will be the same size. We also don’t know when and if this vehicle will debut, or what the current owners of the Mini name will have to say about it, but we’ll definitely be keeping an eye out to see how this project progresses on its way to production. +++


+++ When Jeff Wells placed a reservation for a RIVIAN R1T pickup in early 2019, he was one of the first in line for a truck from the backed electric vehicle startup that at the time promised to tap in to a niche not served by other automakers. But Wells, an accountant from Southern California, has become increasingly frustrated as he sees others, who placed their order years after him, receive trucks while he keeps waiting. “It’s just annoying and it feels like there’s no order to how they’re doing things”, he said of Rivian. Wells is one of dozens of reservation holders who in recent weeks have complained about unreliable delivery timelines and delays in online groups and forums. The complaints mounted after Rivian in late April said it was changing the production sequence of vehicles, prioritizing those with specific interior and exterior color and wheel options. “Building in few build combinations reduces complexity with our suppliers and in the plant and allows us to build a greater number of vehicles”, Rivian told customers in an email. That meant many early reservation-holders sticking with their original color preferences had their orders delayed. Rivian in a statement to Reuters said delivery dates are not just based on the timing of a preorder, and that it was exploring new ways for customers to expedite deliveries. Rivian’s delivery headaches have not drawn the same attention as the California company’s slashed production plans or its messy communication of vehicle price increases, which it first announced across the board, but later scrapped for existing reservation holders following backlash. But delivery woes could prove just as damaging. While all automakers are struggling with global supply-chain snarls, including a semiconductor shortage and rising raw materials costs, startups like Rivian have less room to get things right. Large investors, including Ford and Tiger Global Management, have offloaded Rivian stock after the post-IPO lockup period expired. Rivian’s supporters have largely remained loyal despite the company’s chaotic pricing changes. Preorders have increased to 90.000 vehicles even after the price hikes, which now apply only to new reservations. But delivery delays could prove costly as other automakers launch their own electric pickup trucks, including Ford’s F-150 Lightning. Rivian on May 11 said it was working on overhauling its order system to separate reservations from the configuration process, in an apparent attempt to tackle customer criticism over supply shortages in its order system. Rivian in the statement said the change allowed for pricing and timing transparency. Rivian’s struggles to overhaul its ordering system also reflect wider industry challenges. Inflation and supply-chain snarls have shredded financial forecasts and increased pressure on EV upstarts to reduce costs at a time when investors are closing their check books. “The markets have closed to every company, good and bad. You have to hunker down and set your priorities, and do whatever it takes to get to the other side”, said Daniel Ninivaggi, chief executive at EV startup Lordstown, which this month sold its plant to Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn as cash reserves plummeted. Rivian said it consistently monitored the capital markets and had been planning for an increasingly difficult environment by “optimizing its product roadmap and operating expenses”. At $16 billion, Rivian boasts significantly more cash than Lordstown and other small EV startups, such as Canoo, which this month issued a going-concern warning. But Rivian burned around $1.2 million per vehicle it delivered in the first quarter and is estimated to spend a total of $7 billion in cash this year, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas. “I definitely wouldn’t put Rivian into the same basket as these other companies, but I think they have a high burden, and they need to show they can deliver”, said Vitaly Golomb, a partner at investment bank Drake Star, who leads its EV and mobility practice and is also a Rivian investor and reservation holder. While Rivian has told investors it had enough cash on hand to open its second U.S. plant for $5 billion in 2025, patience may be wearing thin. “Since your IPO, the world has changed dramatically, investors just don’t want to fund negative EBITDA growth companies in this environment”, Jonas said on the company’s most recent earnings call with investors, cutting off Rivian chief financial officer Claire McDonough. Chief executive RJ Scaringe and McDonough said the company would bring costs under control by simplifying its vehicle lineup and minimizing expenses. Scaringe also said Rivian, like some automakers, believed the worst of the semiconductor shortage was behind it. However, other automakers have said the shortage could last into 2023. Rivian has not said when it expects to manufacture vehicles at a profit margin. The price increases, which boost the sticker of its basic-level pickup from $67.500 to $79.500, are supposed to improve the economics and offset higher raw-materials costs. They apply to orders placed after March 1. But industry competitors say making a profit even at that price will be challenging. Peter Rawlinson, CEO of luxury EV maker Lucid Motors and a former engineering executive at Tesla, estimated Rivian spends around $22.000 on its entry-level battery pack and around $20.000 on drive trains supplied by Robert Bosch, requiring a vehicle sticker price of $95.000 to return a profit. “The only way they could ever make that business model work is if they lose money on every truck they sell”, he told in March. Rivian said it was confident about its “pricing journey”. It also said it is working on a lower-cost in-house motor and new battery designs. For Rivian reservation holder Wells, profit margins matter less. He just wants to get his hands on a truck as soon as possible. While he said he prefers Rivian’s R1T, Wells last year also placed a reservation for the F-150 Lightning made by Ford. “At this point, if Ford comes through first, I think I’ll go with them”, Wells said. +++

+++ TESLA reportedly agreed to build a battery and electric vehicle plant in Indonesia after CEO Elon Musk met with the southeast Asian country’s president Joko Widodo last weekend at the SpaceX launch site in Texas. Indonesia’s investment minister Bahlil Lahadalia said that the deal is done, without providing too many details. He did hint that the project might begin this year. The minister said that Tesla agreed to build a battery and electric vehicle plant at an industrial complex in the country’s Central Java province. “God willing, Tesla will enter Indonesia this year. But I can’t announce the month yet. Let’s wait, because we haven’t signed an agreement yet. How much investment is still being kept secret, still waiting. But this is good stuff, big stuff”. While that sounds great, Tesla hasn’t officially confirmed the deal, so you should take this with a grain of salt. After meeting Elon Musk on May 15, Indonesian president Joko Widodo said he discussed “technology and innovation” with the billionaire entrepreneur. In a video released after the meeting, Tesla’s CEO said he was “fired up” by Indonesia’s enthusiasm, adding that Tesla and SpaceX are “looking closely to a potential collaboration on many, many fronts”. Indonesia has been trying to attract investment from Tesla for a few years now, seeking to take advantage of its position as the world’s largest producer of nickel. The metal is a critical element for the cathodes of electric vehicle batteries. By 2025, the island nation has set a goal for 20% of the cars built domestically to be electric. That’s an ambitious target seeing as most of the cars Indonesia currently makes (about 1 million a year) are powered by internal combustion engines. The country is trying to grow its EV market, with Hyundai recently starting production of the Ioniq 5 in Indonesia while China’s Wuling Motors is expected to make small EVs at its Indonesian plant later this year. In addition, Hyundai and LG Energy Solution started construction of a $1.1 billion electric vehicle battery plant near the capital city of Jakarta. When finished, the factory is expected to produce enough battery cells to power 150,000 electric vehicles a year. Production is scheduled to start in 2023. +++

+++ VOLKSWAGEN will launch the ID.Aero as a slick technological showpiece aimed at stealing sales from the most popular electric cars on the market, but at the other end of the line-up the brand is set to unveil a compact urban EV pricedat around the €22.000 mark (Dutch pricing). The German car maker gave a hint of what to expect from its most affordable EV with the quirky ID.Life concept at last year’s Munich motor show, but a new preview image suggests the design team have gone back to the drawing board to give the production version a stronger visual link to the Volkswagen ID.Aero, which will go on sale at around the same time. Earlier this year, it was reported that Volkswagen designers were seeking to give the production version of the ID.Life a more futuristic look and emphasise its digital functionality, with the aim of attracting younger buyers. The sketch shows that a sleeker, more muscular silhouette is the result, with an angular front end and characteristic ID cues, such as the horizontal front light bar, cementing its position in the expanding ID family. Unlike the ID.Aero, the new Polo-sized EV (which is expected to take the ID.1 name into production) will use a shortened version of the ID.3’s platform, referred to as MEB Entry and reduced in length by around 100mm. It is also expected to be offered with the same 235 hp front-mounted motor and 57 kWh battery as the concept to give a range of nearly 400 km and a 0-100 kph time of less than 7 seconds. Overall, it will offer substantial performance, efficiency and functionality improvements over the Volkswagen e-Up, for which it will essentially serve as a replacement. It will be built from 2025 in Spain (alongside technically identical sibling models from Cupra and Skoda),  where the Volkswagen Group has committed £8.5 billion to the electrification of its operations, including the construction of a dedicated battery factory. Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess was keen to stress the role the new budget EVs will play in ramping up volumes. “It made sense to come into EVs top down, but by 2025 we think the time will be right for a Polo-sized car”, he said. “We have a new generation of batteries; aside from the raw material price rises, now our costs are coming down with scale. “The demand is there and the margins are there for small electric cars to be profitable”. +++

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