Luxury Plug-In Hybrids May Be A Mistake, Says German Industry Analyst


2016 Mercedes-Benz S550e Plug-In Hybrid

2016 Mercedes-Benz S550e Plug-In Hybrid

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The established German luxury carmakers are showing considerable enthusiasm for plug-in hybrids.

Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche all have at least one plug-in hybrid in production or nearly there--with many more on the way.

In a few years, at least some members of this group will likely offer plug-in hybrid options for virtually every model they make.

DON'T MISS: How Audi, BMW & Mercedes Plan To Compete With Tesla--And Why (Oct 2014)

But that may not be such a good idea, according to one industry analyst.

Emphasis on plug-in hybrids won't prevent Tesla Motors from taking a greater share of the luxury-car market, says Professor Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer--director of Germany's Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

In an article by Forbes contributor Neil Winton, Dudenhoeffer claims that the Tesla Model S is outselling traditional status symbols like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in both Germany and Switzerland.

2016 Audi Q7 e-tron quattro

2016 Audi Q7 e-tron quattro

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Neither country has the established level of electric-car incentives available in the U.S., or in other European nations.

Dudenhoffer said plug-in hybrids don't have the green image of all-electric cars, because drivers still have to rely on an internal-combustion engine much of the time.

In Germany at least, that means buyers don't view plug-in hybrids as legitimately green cars, he said.

ALSO SEE: 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid: Gas Mileage Review Of Plug-In Hybrid

The researcher claims Tesla is already outselling high-end sedans from the German brands in certain markets, and that if it can launch its planned Model 3 electric car, it could prove equally dominant in lower-priced segments.

Tesla plans to launch the mass-market Model 3 sedan in 2017, with targeted range of 200 miles, and a base price of $35,000.

German automakers will likely introduce more all-electric cars, but they may still be outnumbered by plug-in hybrids.

2016 BMW 740e xDrive

2016 BMW 740e xDrive

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Audi will soon begin selling plug-in hybrid versions of the A3 and Q7 in the U.S., and will launch an all-electric crossover in 2018.

BMW has announced plug-in hybrids variants of the 3 Series and 7 Series sedans, as well as the X5 SUV, to join the i3 electric car and i8 plug-in hybrid.

Porsche already sells plug-in hybrid versions of the Cayenne and Panamera, and while there have been rumors of an all-electric Porsche sedan, nothing has been confirmed so far.

MORE: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE550e Plug-In Hybrid: Quick Drive

Mercedes-Benz currently sells an S-Class plug-in hybrid, which will soon be joined by C-Class sedan and GLE-Class SUV plug-ins.

To date, no German automaker has announced a plug-in hybrid with the range of the 53-mile 2016 Chevrolet Volt, which goes on sale next month in California.

2016 Chevrolet Volt

2016 Chevrolet Volt

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That car is expected to do 90 percent of its trips on grid electricity, General Motors says.

The only vehicle with a range greater than the Volt is the BMW i3 REx, with a 73-mile electric range and about another 75 miles from its two-cylinder range-extending engine--quite different indeed from the large luxury SUVs that represent the coming crop of plug-in hybrids from German makers.

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