2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric DriveEnlarge Photo
Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler is pushing for more electric cars, and that has the company's labor leaders thinking about how such a shift might affect its workers.
Electric motors and drivetrains require far fewer components than internal-combustion engines, meaning fewer workers are needed to assemble them.
The technical knowledge needed to design electric powertrains is also less specialized, meaning that more of that work could be contracted out to other companies.
So to protect jobs, labor leaders believe Daimler should start building electric-car powertrain components itself—on a large scale.
Producing as many electric-powertrain components as possible in-house will help eliminate potential job losses, Michael Brecht—Daimler works council chief—said in a recent interview with Reuters.
Brecht noted that the number of workers required to build internal-combustion engines is "roughly tenfold" the amount required for electric motors.
Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 concept, 2016 Monterey Car WeekEnlarge Photo
He is one of the labor representatives who make up half of Daimler's supervisory board, and who can collectively exercise veto power over company decisions.
Encouraging Daimler to produce its own electric motors and major components may also be intended as a hedge against the outsourcing of this work to another company.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car was developed through a far-reaching partnership between General Motors and Korean electronics giant LG.
The Korean electronics firm not only provided battery cells, but also many of the components related to the powertrain, as well as control and infotainment systems.
This likely helped GM get the Bolt EV from concept car to production readiness in under two years.
That's a remarkably short gestation period by industry standards, although GM also had the benefit of electric-car knowledge and programs dating back to the EV1 of the mid-1990s.
2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive (European model) prototype, Aug 2016Enlarge Photo
The less-specialized nature of electric-powertrain components is also one factor in many analysts' predictions that tech companies like Apple and Google could eventually produce their own cars for consumers.
Daimler announced earlier this year that its Deutsche Accumotive battery subsidiary will triple production capacity for battery packs.
The company is rumored to be developing at least six—and possibly as many as nine—new electric models across the Mercedes and Smart brands.
The next-generation Smart Fortwo Electric Drive and a Mercedes electric-car concept will debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show at the end of this month.
And Mercedes is far from the only German carmaker to be planning an expanded range of electric vehicles.
Volkswagen will unveil a compact electric-car concept at the Paris show as well, one of 30 electric models it expects to offer within the next several years.
[hat tip: John Briggs]