Cars

Q&A: Mercedes CEO on EV strategy, F1, Smart and more

Will there be an electric G-Class?

“The G-Wagen seems to transcend all segments. It’s its own company, almost. But yes, the G-Wagen will go electric in a few years.”

Will you keep your connection with Formula 1?

“As you know, negotiations are proceeding right now over the framework of a new F1 agreement for the future. It is important to us that any deal should be ecologically satisfactory as well as financially sound. But F1 remains a very, very attractive arena for us.”

You’ve been tight-lipped about the progress of your AMG One hypercar. Why is that?

“I wouldn’t say we’ve been quiet. In fact, the whole project is quite loud, as you’d expect of a car powered by an F1 engine. Development of the car is proceeding and we are excited about it. When we reach the right stage, we will say more.”

We have seen General Motors quit right-hand-drive markets around the world. Are these markets as important to Mercedes-Benz as ever?

“Absolutely. Right-hand-drive markets are extremely important to us. The UK is our second-biggest market in Europe, Japan is another vital area and we believe we still have good growth potential in Australia. Right-hand drive will continue as a cornerstone of our business.”

Why do you need a partnership with Geely to make the Smart marque work?

“We looked at the options for Smart and it’s clear the financial performance has never been satisfactory. We decided that the best option for fixing this was to move it to China, where a joint venture with Geely is more attractive and the technology and cost structures are right. This year will be our first producing all-electric Smarts and we have some really great new vehicles coming from the second half of 2022.”

Given the decline of motor shows and the special problems with Geneva this year, how do you view the future of motor shows?

“In general, we believe motor shows can still be very effective for us. We started the year at CES in Las Vegas, which has transformed itself into a kind of technology and motor show. For the future, we think motor shows will continue to have an important role, but we will be selective in how we use them. We are discussing developments to the format of the IAA, the [old] Frankfurt motor show. There is a plan to give it a more open format, to benefit consumers more.”

You’ve switched your priority for autonomous driving from cars to trucks. Why is that?

“Because the business case for trucks looks more attractive. Autonomy requires very, very sophisticated engineering, but we’re not giving up on cars. We’re just being careful how we deploy our resources.”

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