The Mercedes EV – the EQC – is representative not just of a paradigm shift in the automotive industry as a whole, but also at the Stuttgart manufacturer specifically.
The Benz Patent-Motorwagen, designed and built by Karl Benz in the late 19th century, is widely regarded as the first production automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. So, to say that Mercedes-Benz has a rich history would be a bit of an understatement!
The baggage of legacy, however, can be tough to shed – especially when the ground is literally shifting beneath you, as is the case with the automotive industry at present, which is reconsidering its place in society as a whole, as well searching for the most suitable propulsion source going forward. Of course, Mercedes-Benz has a rich legacy of innovation through the ages, but with such a tradition also comes a conservative approach and an apprehension towards change – both accusations that could have been levelled at the three-pointed star in the past. But not anymore.
Over the past decade, Mercedes-Benz has demonstrated an agility and an adeptness that you would expect more from a Silicon Valley company rather than from a manufacturing behemoth set in the industrial heart of Germany. Yet, over this period, the Stuttgart-based carmaker has managed to completely reinvent not only its product range, but its image as well.
You need only look towards its success in Formula 1 to get a sense of the mindset that now pervades the entire company – one of innovation, thinking outside the box, and with an eye firmly on the prize! It’s this thinking that’s allowed Mercedes to shed some of the baggage that was holding it back, and focus on forward-looking design, development and desirability. It’s not that they no longer value their history, they do, but it’s more about looking ahead and not being constrained by the past.
And this is immediately evident when you drive any of the latest generation models with a three-pointed star on the bonnet. The designs are contemporary, the technology is cutting edge, and the cabins are futuristic – so-much-so that its traditional rivals, Audi and BMW, appear to be trailing in the distance. Something as simple, yet crucial, as the new Mercedes instrument cluster and infotainment screen layout is a case in point.
Personally, I prefer an old-school behemoth like the GLS – which has been totally transformed in its latest avatar – than a battery-powered EQC, but I can’t fault Mercedes for offering Indian customers the option of a luxury EV, even if it’ll be priced preposterously.
EV’s, themselves, still have some way to go before they can be a sustainable and cost-effective solution for the future. But it’s a future that you can bet Mercedes will have a big role in shaping – much as they have the past.