Mercedes-Benz’s migration towards electrifying its platforms has been a slow and steady progression, though it seems to be approaching event horizon. Rather than jumping in headlong and trying to beat the competition to the punch, the German powerhouse has been spending significant time in R&D with the goal of ensuring its offerings are entirely worthy of wearing the three-pointed star. In the words of MB Canada’s execs, the brand’s approach is much akin to the expression “if you’re going to be one of the last guests to arrive at the party, you’d better be sure you brought the best bottle of wine.” Brian D. Fulton, President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Canada took a moment during his first day on the Canadian International Auto Show floor to have a chat about this and other strides the brand is taking to step into the future of transportation.
How would you sum up the short and long-term future for Mercedes when it comes to the future of the automobile as we know it?
To put it simply, it’s exciting. Daimler AG’s C.A.S.E. strategy — standing for Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Services, and Electric — is bringing changes in all dimensions of what we do. Our all new A-Class coming in Q4 of this year will be a first solid showcase of what’s to come, and then by Q4 of 2019 we’ll be unveiling our first fully electrified vehicle with the 2020 EQC. Looking further down the line, there’s a lot more exciting things to come. By 2022, we will have 10 fully electric models in the lineup, and we’re even working on a fully electrified AMG model as well, slated to have an output somewhere north of 600 horsepower.
Is the plan to fully electrify the lineup?
We want to give our customers the option if an electric vehicle is right for them, but it’s not going to be 100 per cent of our portfolio. By 2025, only 75 per cent of our offerings will be powered by internal combustion engines, though many will be offered as electrified variants of those models. Back to that 2022 date, we’re planning 50 electrified variants of different models in our range. It’s been a slow and steady process, and a huge investment in the future of our business. All told, we’ve invested 10 billion Euro to ensure we’re offering the best, strongest, safest product we can.
Do you think the industry’s push towards autonomous driving will have an impact on the luxury segment?
I’m encouraged by it overall, though I think it will take time before we see any major change. There are still significant hurdles to overcome, though I think once a test-city is able to implement autonomous driving successfully, that’s when it’s really going to take off. On our end, we’re just about to start testing self-driving Robo-Taxis in the next few months in Germany, and we’re excited to keep moving ahead. The level 4 and 5 autonomous technology is there, and it’s luxury brands like us that are pioneering it. At our production facility, the first 2018 S-Class to come off the production line drove itself off the line and parked itself autonomously.
What’s your take on the likes of Google and Apple getting more involved in the automotive industry lately?
It’s fair to say they’ve done some remarkable things, but we don’t let that shape our strategy. We will say that the tech world in general has had an impact on customer demands in general, which is in part what has led to our latest UX known as Mercedes Me. This platform will be rolled out with the new A-Class later in the year, but guests of the auto show can get a look at the system and its benefits through our Mercedes Me installation at our booth.
Forgetting about the future for a second, what are you driving right now?
I’m currently in the 2018 G63 AMG, and loving every minute of it. I love the look and feel of the G, that sense of safety. It’s basically like driving a luxury tank. Unfortunately I’ll be moving on from the G63 in the next little while, though I’m swapping it for a GLE63 so I can’t really complain.
If you woke up tomorrow, work situation is entirely different, and you need to go out and buy a car, what would it be?
I’d still have to stick with Mercedes. I’ve been in love with the S550 for a good while now, so I would take it or even an S450. It’s hands-down one of the best looking cars on the market, and its combination of comfort, driving experience, and handling are just fantastic.
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