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Mercedes-Benz to unveil flagship electric sedan EQS with Tesla-beating battery

Mercedes is in the midst of a fundamental overhaul that will include a painful restructuring of combustion-engine sites that the manufacturer depended on for a century. (AP)Premium
Mercedes is in the midst of a fundamental overhaul that will include a painful restructuring of combustion-engine sites that the manufacturer depended on for a century. (AP)

The April 15 debut of the EQS -- the first Mercedes built on dedicated electric-car underpinnings -- will mark a milestone for the German brand that’s been criticized for taking too long to embrace EVs

Mercedes-Benz is about to unveil a new flagship model it expects to boast market-leading battery range, following through on its pledge to compete in the luxury electric-vehicle segment with top technology.

The April 15 debut of the EQS -- the first Mercedes built on dedicated electric-car underpinnings -- will mark a milestone for the German brand that’s been criticized for taking too long to embrace EVs. Next year, Mercedes will be making eight fully electric cars on three continents, Chief Operating Officer Markus Schaefer said in a phone interview.

“We boosted flexibility of all factories worldwide so that we can produce hybrids, fully electric cars and combustion vehicles everywhere, depending on customer demand and individual market developments," Schaefer said. “It took a while for us to prepare all this, but now it’s time to deliver."

The more than 700 kilometers (435 miles) of range Mercedes expects the EQS to achieve in lab testing is another indication Germany’s carmakers will have something to say about Tesla Inc.’s early domination of the EV space. Volkswagen AG last week announced plans to become the new global sales leader no later than 2025, while BMW AG forecast battery-car sales will account for roughly half of deliveries by the end of the decade.

Mercedes is in the midst of a fundamental overhaul that will include a painful restructuring of combustion-engine sites that the manufacturer depended on for a century. The revamp has culminated in parent Daimler AG’s plan to spin off its truck operation this year, the most significant strategic move since the company sold off Chrysler.

“The pace of the industry’s transformation is keeping us busy of course, but what’s really key for us now is that we deliver the physical proof points of our strategy in our factories and with our products," Schaefer said. The company will flank the compact EQA and EQB with the larger EQS and EQE this year, and make SUV versions of the latter two models at its U.S. factory in Alabama.

The battery range Mercedes has touted for the EQS would exceed the 412 miles that Tesla estimates for the Long Range version of the Model S. The company provides U.S. data on its order website, which can vary from the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure used in Europe and elsewhere.

Mercedes may not have a lead for long. Startup Lucid Motors Inc. has said it will sell a version of its Air sedan that offers 517 miles of range, and Tesla has estimated the Model S Plaid+ slated for late this year will get 520 miles.

In any case, the EQS represents progress. Mercedes built its initial electric vehicle, the EQC SUV, on a tweaked combustion-engine platform with compromised efficiency. It offers about 280 miles of range.

Schaefer said that going forward, Mercedes will be able to flexibly scale up output of any kind of vehicle. He expects “a steep increase" this year for plug-ins and pure EVs that accounted for 8% of deliveries in 2020.

Mercedes will be able to meet demand if consumers embrace EVs faster than expected, Schaefer said. The company has forecast that half its deliveries will be plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars in 2030.

The automaker also is open to sharing components or electric-car underpinnings with more peers in addition to Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings Plc if the cooperation is mutually beneficial, according to Schaefer. Mercedes deepened its ties with the British luxury-car maker last year.

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