Mercedes-Benz reinvents itself
Paris/Stuttgart. At “Mondial de l’Automobile 2016,” Dr. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes‑Benz Cars, presented the company’s strategy for the mobility of the future: “connectivity, autonomous driving, sharing and electric drive systems – each of these four trends has the potential to turn our industry on its head. Yet the real revolution lies in intelligently linking the four trends,” said Zetsche at the Mercedes‑Benz press conference in Paris. The company is restructuring itself accordingly. The strategic orientation of Mercedes‑Benz Cars for the future will be brought together under CASE. CASE stands for the four pillars Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Service and Electric Drive. “To guarantee the logical fusion of all four future trends, we are bringing together the respective activities in a new, legally separate entity. This focus is aimed at achieving greater speed and effectiveness of implementation.” Zetsche unveiled the concept vehicle “Generation EQ” as the forerunner of the new era of mobility at Mercedes-Benz. Based on an SUV, the close-to-production electric vehicle symbolises the new strategic direction. At the same time, Zetsche also unveiled the new product brand under which Mercedes‑Benz will bundle all its electric mobility activities in future: “EQ.”
CASE – these letters will shape the future of Mercedes-Benz Cars. They stand for the strategic pillars of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared) and electric drive systems (Electric), which will be systematically advanced and intelligently combined by the company. Already today, Mercedes-Benz Cars plays a leading role in all four areas. By bundling them into one all-embracing strategy, the company is underlining its claim to play a dominant role in the mobility of the future.
All activities in the area of connectivity are focused on the digital brand Mercedes me, which gives customers access to an extensive and personalised range of services by app, website or straight from their car. One of the next digital service offerings will be “Community-based Parking”, in which the sensors in Mercedes‑Benz cars detect free parking spaces and share this information with other nearby vehicles using the Daimler Vehicle Backend. This will make it significantly easier to find a parking space.
On the way to autonomous driving, Mercedes‑Benz has for years been a key driver of development and has repeatedly set the benchmark. To this end, the Mercedes engineers use so-called sensor fusion. The data from different sensors, such as cameras, ultrasound and radar, are intelligently combined and analysed. Already today, this allows extensive autonomous driving functions, provided they are legally permissible and technically safe. What is already possible today is impressively demonstrated by the new E‑Class with DRIVE PILOT. The most important functions include semi-autonomous driving on motorways, country roads and even in the city as well as assistance when changing lanes on multi-lane roads, for example when overtaking. Furthermore, it is capable in more and more situations of autonomously braking the vehicle if required and providing active assistance during evasive manoeuvres.
The inventor of the automobile is also a pioneer when it comes to flexible models for car use: “In 2007, we pioneered free-floating car-sharing with car2go. With around two million users, we are today the world’s biggest provider,” said Zetsche. And, here too, we are continuously developing new ideas and services. One of the next steps will be a pilot project for the renting of private vehicles from Mercedes‑Benz and smart in cooperation with the San Francisco-based start-up Getaround. In addition to its collaboration with start-ups, the company is also developing its own car-sharing projects.
As far as the electrification of the powertrain is concerned, Mercedes‑Benz is pursuing an integrated approach. Under the “EQ” brand, it is developing an ecosystem including not just the actual vehicle, but also a comprehensive offering around electric mobility. This extends from intelligent services to energy storage units for private and commercial customers as well as charging technologies, such as inductive charging, to sustainable recycling. The goal is clear: by 2025, Mercedes‑Benz Cars aims to have over ten all-electric vehicles in its portfolio. To meet the growing demand for high-quality high-voltage batteries, the company is investing a total of one billion euros in the expansion of its global battery production network, with no less than 500 million euros flowing into the construction of a second battery factory at the site in Kamenz, Saxony.
Forerunner of a new era: Generation EQ
The concept vehicle “Generation EQ,” which celebrates its world premiere in Paris, provides a concrete preview of a completely new generation of vehicles from Mercedes‑Benz while showcasing the benefits for customers from the close linking of all four CASE pillars. At the same time, the concept vehicle represents the starting signal for the new EQ brand, under which Mercedes‑Benz is bringing together all its electric-mobility activities. The vehicle comes with extensive infotainment features, an inductive charging capability, which requires no cable, and automated driving functions. The electric drive system has a range of up to 500 kilometres.
The new generation of electric vehicles will be based on an architecture developed specifically for battery-electric models, which is scalable in every respect and usable across all models. The wheelbase and track width as well as all other system components are variable thanks to the modular building-block system. The vehicle concept is thus optimised to meet every requirement of a battery-electric model family.
The models from smart will also make a significant contribution. As early as 2007, smart took the lead in the field of electric mobility with the launch of the first electrically powered trial fleet in London. The battery-electric versions of smart fortwo, smart forfour and smart fortwo cabrio have now celebrated their world premiere in Paris. This makes smart the first and only brand to make its entire portfolio available with both internal combustion engines and electric drive systems.
The inventor of the automobile reinvents itself
To enable the CASE strategy to develop its full effectiveness, the relevant activities for the four pillars of CASE are being brought together in a new, legally independent entity. One of the fascinating ideas in this exciting phase of transformation is the restructuring of parts of Daimler AG into swarm organisations. With this, the company is forging ahead with its cultural change: the personal initiative of employees will be strengthened, hierarchies will be made flatter and decisions will be made considerably faster. CASE, as a first independent entity, is the perfect start.