Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mercedes-Benz Considering Making S-class Hybrid-only?

Mercedes-Benz Considering Making S-class Hybrid-only?
With mostly large V-8s and twin-turbo V-12s in its lineup, the Mercedes-Benz S-class isn’t particularly fuel-efficient. In light of upcoming fuel economy standards, Daimler executives reportedly are considering making the S-class a hybrid-only lineup.

According to Automotive News, inside dealer sources said Daimler executives are considering the switch to all gasoline-electric models for the next-generation S-class. If the switch is made, the dealer sources say that no S-class will be offered with only an internal combustion engine -- including the high-performance AMG versions. The fact that even the Autobahn-storming AMG models would become hybrids has drawn criticism from U.S. dealerships because they worry hybrids are not perceived as true performance cars in this market.

As of right now, only a few U.S. Mercedes dealerships have been briefed on the proposed plan. Those dealers will meet with Joachim Schmidt, head of sales and marketing at Mercedes-Benz Cars, this week at The Masters golf tournament in August, Georgia. Mercedes is a tournament sponsor.

Currently, the most fuel-efficient S-class is the recently introduced S400 Hybrid with a fuel economy rating of 19/26 mpg (city/highway). From there, the ratings continue to decline all the way down to 11/17 mpg for the top-of-the-line S65 AMG. According to Tommy Baker, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealership board in the U.S. and owner of a Mercedes dealership in Charleston, South Carolina, this doesn’t matter to S-class buyers. He says that for S-class buyers, the “goal is not gas mileage.”

“The most important thing in the American market -- regardless of hybrid, lithium, or electric cars -- is that we Americans are different than any market and we are going to want those gasoline engines,” Baker told Automotive News. To that end, Mercedes-Benz has already announced a new, more fuel-efficient 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 to replace the company’s 6.2-liter V-8 in its “63” AMG models.

Although Baker says the all-hybrid S-class lineup may not fly with U.S. consumers, an average combined rating of 16 mpg and emissions of a similar level won’t fly with the government’s upcoming fuel economy and emissions standards. Two Daimler sources told Automotive News that the move is being considered to help Mercedes reach the strict European CO2 emissions laws and the U.S. fuel economy standard by mid-decade. A final decision on the matter is expected within three months and, if approved, would be implemented on the next-generation S-class due out in Europe in 2013 and a year later in the U.S.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)