The German newspapers Welt and Spiegel have attracted attention with reports that would raise doubts about electric mobility if one did not look at the current registration statistics.
Spiegel reports on the expiration of purchase incentives for electric cars in China, where the headline Electric mobility in China – The long march back would give the impression that China no longer sees any future in electric cars. This is not true, because as in many countries and regions (and I can speak of California from my own experience), state subsidies and tax rebates are introduced as an incentive to push a technology, which then become less after a while until they are completely abolished. And this is exactly what is happening now in China, where, despite the discontinuation of subsidies, there are still means of promoting electric mobility: and these are packages that include the availability of license plates, free parking, free shops, or the shared use of bus or express lanes. So there is no talk of a “long march back”.
The news from the Welt, in turn, has a completely different character. The Mercedes EQC, the first purely battery-electric SUV from Mercedes, which was presented with great fanfare in September 2018, sold an incredible 55(!) times in November 2019 according to the registration statistics of the Federal Motor Transport Authority in Germany – or more correctly – 55 units, of which 19 were of the AMG version, were registered nationwide.
This figure is a catastrophe to say the least, recalling the introduction of the Mercedes S in 1991, which at that time had been optimized for a customer base of just 1: Helmut Kohl. Even though the S-Class originally sold well, the dimensions and weight of the car very quickly made the disadvantages apparent – and many cars turned up as trade-in cars at BMW.
The EQC was a disaster with announcement. I’ve already listed here everything that was messed up at the EQC. And when journalists got their hands on the car for the first time for testing, like Nando Sommerfeldt from Welt a few days ago, who was not able to finish a trip of 180 kilometers in winter with a fully loaded car without intermediate loading, it was probably clear to everyone that “The best or nothing” as a Mercedes motto had lost its validity.
What you do is what you are.
At Mercedes, this failure in electric mobility clearly goes back to the former long-time CEO Dieter Zetsche, who wanted nothing whatsoever to do with electric mobility.
Thinking that you wouldn’t trust your own customers with a car that was too different from the one you knew was a shot in the arm. Above all, the simple comparison of performance with the offer of a competitor like Tesla left the customers with the bitter aftertaste that Mercedes wanted to make them look stupid. The EQC is simply too expensive and too bad. Not a combination that makes a bestseller.
Registration Numbers For Germany
Although all registration figures for December in Germany are not yet available, the projections and actual numbers show a clearly different picture. The registration curve for purely battery electric cars in Germany shows exponential growth. Although the 2019 figures do not yet include December, they are already almost 60 percent higher than in 2018. An extrapolation will probably show 72 percent more new registrations for electric cars in the last 12 months than for 2018.
The figures from other countries and from other producers paint a completely different picture. First of all, Tesla achieved record sales and broke the sound barrier of 100,000 vehicles delivered in the 4th quarter of 2019 for the first time (exactly: 112,000 vehicles). In the Netherlands alone, Tesla dominates the registration statistics with 12,062 Model 3 vehicles delivered in December. The Audi e-tron also sold relatively well in Germany (192 in November 2019) and really well in the Netherlands (3,037 in December 2019).
In other words, there is a demand for good electric cars. The blame for the lack of interest in one’s own offering cannot be blamed on the customers, but is primarily to be found in one’s own inadequate offering.
A few months ago, as a Tesla Model 3 owner, I was asked by a German manufacturer what one of their own electric cars had to be able to do in order for me to switch from Tesla to them. I have listed this in this summary and you can see several elements that are indispensable.
What Now At The CES?
I barely dare to forecast even more, but starting this week Monday the Consumer Electronic Show CES in Las Vegas opens its doors, and in the last years Mercedes has not excelled there. I’m almost certain I’ll see a combustion engine as the main attraction on the Mercedes stand again, and in the evening, on the famous Strip in Las Vegas, one or two lanes will be blocked off on one block, so that Mercedes will demonstrate the next, already umpteenth, autonomous concept car by remote control – while others, mind you, will use their own autonomous cars as robot taxis for visitors to the show.
At BMW itself, things do not look any better. The stepchild i3 has too much to die, but too little to live. And instead of driving forward the development of their own electronics division, they are once again exhibiting big gas guzzlers. I will probably see the same x7, x8, x9 …x23 at CES as every year, but no electric cars.
I am curious about the VW ID.3 and hope to see it at CES. Otherwise Byton, Nio and others will certainly leave an impression there and show how much the world has changed. The sad thing is that the chief engineers of many of these newcomers come from German-speaking countries, but their mindset is quite different from what we allow at home.
This article was also published in German.