2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive - First Drive, May 2014
With the first Mercedes-Benz electric car now on sale, its parent company Daimler joins the expanding ranks of global automakers offering plug-in electric vehicles in the U.S.
But CEO Dieter Zetsche doesn't seem any too happy about it.
“Manufacturers will not see a return within a reasonable time on the billions they’re investing now" in electric cars, Zetsche is quoted as saying.
The statement came during an event in Spain to introduce the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive to European journalists, and was published Monday in a Bloomberg article on that car.
Moreover, according to Zetsche, “You can reasonably say that nobody today is making a battery-powered vehicle that’s economically viable in its own right."
Mercedes-Benz, Dieter Zetsche and Palast Orchester
The electric B-Class, which will get some updates to its styling and equipment for 2015--its second model year--was not developed entirely by Daimler.
Instead, the drive system was designed under contract by electric-car maker Tesla Motors, which will presumably provide a fixed number of component sets to Daimler to build into the compact five-door hatchback.
This is actually the third such Tesla powertrain in a Daimler vehicle; the company had previously provided battery packs and drivetrains for small numbers of the A-Class E-Cell and a previous generation of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.
That makes the B-Class Electric a "low-cost and low-risk solution" for the company, according to Stefan Bratzel, the director of the Center of Automotive Management at Germany's University of Applied Sciences.
2014 BMW i3 in Vancouver, Canada [photo: Don Chandler]
Other German automakers have taken the development of their electric powertrains in-house, with BMW in particular making an aggressive and high-volume push into electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles under its BMW "i" sub-brand.
VW Group will offer plug-in hybrids throughout its range within the next decade, and it has just launched the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf electric car.
The seventh-generation Golf is the only model in the world that offers gasoline, diesel, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric powertrains in a single vehicle.
But Daimler has not made to the same commitment to plug-in electric vehicles as the other two Germans.
In fact, the company revealed last month it had sold its minority share in Tesla Motors entirely.
The Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive goes on sale in Germany on November 29, at prices that essentially match those of the smaller, more high-tech BMW i3.