Daimler is facing delays in delivering its all-electric EQC SUV and risks being passed by domestic rivals such as Munich’s BMW and Ingolstadt-based Audi when it comes to battery-powered vehicles.
The Stuttgart-based company, which also makes Mercedes-Benz luxury cars and Freightliner Trucks, will present the EQC in September in Stockholm but won’t begin selling the model until June 2019, a few months behind internal schedules.
Daimler’s electric plans have failed to connect as cleanly as its competitors. Customers currently have to wait nearly a year to buy one of its electric Smart city cars and the company, industry sources say, will also first introduce a gas-driven version of its upgraded S-Class luxury sedan in 2020. The electric version may not be available until 2021, which is especially damaging because of the explosive interest in electric cars in China.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche promised to bring a dozen electric Mercedes models to the market by 2022, in part to keep up with electric models from rivals such as BMW, Tesla and Audi, which will begin selling its E-tron electric SUV this fall. “There’s a risk that Daimler can now stumble into a hole and be overtaken by competitors such as BMW,” said Ingo Speich, a fund manager with Union Investment.
A Daimler spokesman Monday denied there was any delay in either its EQC or S-Class plans, but the cost of developing new electric cars and retooling factories is weighing on shareholders’ minds — especially after Daimler’s record results last year when it brought in nearly €11 billion ($12.8 billion) in profit. Plus, the stock has pared more than 11 percent this year even though Germany’s benchmark DAX index was little changed in the same period. “The market is skeptical of whether Daimler can reach the same profitability as today while facing the electric car trend,” Mr. Speich said.
The exec is relying on Daimler development head Ola Källenius to not only keep the company competitive, but also within European Union pollution guidelines. The company’s cars still exceed the maximum emission levels set by the EU for 2021 and even their new cars emitted slightly more in 2017 than a year earlier. If the cars emit an average of more than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 2021, Daimler will be on the hook for stiff penalties.
Diesel, which has fallen out of favor with consumers after the never-ending raft of cheating scandals involving BMW, VW and now Daimler, could have helped. Now it appears Daimler’s only salvation may be electric cars.
Andrew Bulkeley is an editor in Berlin for Handelsblatt Global. Handelsblatt reporters Markus Fasse, Franz Hubik and Martin Murphy contributed to this report. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org