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.

DON'T MISS: 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive: First Drive

“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

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.

ALSO SEE: 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric: Range Pack Standard, Styling Update, More Features

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]

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.

MORE: Daimler Cashes In On Tesla Stock, Sells Share In Electric-Car Maker

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.


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