Mercedes switzerland boss marc langenbrick on future electric cars

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CEO of Mercedes-Benz Switzerland Marc Langenbrinck on e-cars: “Driving is fun, charging is unsettling”

He wants to sell more electric cars, but his customers want powerful combustion engines. Therefore, the manufacturer had to pay a fine of 11 million Swiss francs last year. Mercedes-Benz Switzerland CEO Marc Langenbrinck explains how to re-educate customers.

Mercedes Switzerland boss Marc Langenbrick on future electric cars-future

Marc Langenbrinck with the new Mercedes-Benz EQS; the Stromer offers a range of up to 780 km.

The CO2 law in Switzerland was rejected; What do you think were the reasons for this??

Marc Langenbrinck: I think the CO2 law was rejected because it was very complex. In principle, I regret that the environmentally-oriented proposal was rejected. We all know that we have to reduce our CO2 emissions.

How would the law have affected the Swiss car market?

If the law were passed, the price of fuel would have increased. This would also have penalized plug-in hybrid vehicles, which I think is wrong. And significantly stricter CO2 limits would have been introduced from 2023. The CO2 law did not find a majority either, because it was not clear what the promised funds were to be used for. One of the biggest obstacles to e-mobility is the infrastructure, which needs to be further expanded. The template did not state that revenue would have been used for this purpose.

Nevertheless: The 95-gram fleet limit remains – is that the right way?

Here, Switzerland is taking a completely different approach than most other countries. The penalties for exceeding the limit are passed on to the customer and therefore have no steering effect. After all, the customer should see what the opportunity costs of a high-performance, high-cylinder vehicle are for the environment. At the moment he doesn’t see that because we as a manufacturer pay the CO2 penalty and due to the strong competition no manufacturer can beat the fines on the price of their cars. In France, for example, depending on the vehicle purchased, the customer pays an additional CO2 fee of up to 15,000 euros – and thus decides directly whether to stick with the combustion engine or choose a relatively cheaper alternative drive.

How much did you have to pay for the past year?

It goes without saying that our goal is to become CO2-neutral. For 2020 we did not quite meet the target and had to pay a fine of eleven million francs. This was mainly due to the fact that in 2020 we had above-average demand for cars with large and powerful engines. However, our medium-term goal remains the same: we will be CO2-free – from research and procurement to production and sales.

A very ambitious plan. How do you intend to do that??

By 2022, Mercedes-Benz will offer battery-electric vehicles in all of our segments. We’re preparing to go fully electric before the end of the decade. But what is central to all of these plans is that our customers decide which cars they buy. We have to take them with us on the journey and inspire them.

Although alternative drive systems are a big topic of conversation, it is precisely the powerfully motorized models with higher fuel consumption that sell very well. How do you want to change that?

It’s like this: We all react the quickest when we notice it in our wallets. As a society, we have a choice: either the environment will soon cost us all a lot economically, or it will cost the individual car buyer something in the short term. If I want to drive a large-volume petrol engine with 500 hp, then I have to be aware that this has an impact on my carbon footprint – and I am personally responsible for that.

Mercedes Switzerland boss Marc Langenbrick on future electric cars-mercedes

Still popular: Powerful SUVs from Mercedes-AMG.

“We all react the quickest when we notice it in our wallets.”

The customer is probably much less price-sensitive with Mercedes than with other brands, right?

No, our customers also calculate sharply. But due to the battery technology, electric vehicles are still more expensive than comparable petrol engines. In the first four years of operation, the electric catches up with this disadvantage, but that is a very complex calculation. It would be more effective if the e-car were cheaper right from the start. This could be solved by an environmental tax. The existing vehicle-related CO2 tax could be charged directly to the customer, who includes these costs in his individual purchase decision.

Nevertheless, there are also many fans who want to continue buying the high-performance models from your AMG sports department. why?

Many customers not only enjoy the quality and performance of our AMG vehicles, but also the prestige that such a car brings with it. The car is a status symbol in Switzerland. Especially in the pandemic, we see that many customers treat themselves to something nice. The AMG share in this country is currently over 20 percent for the first time.

And what does the future of such models look like?

AMG is a proud part of our DNA, and of course we also want to support our loyal customers in sustainability. It starts with a 48-volt mild hybrid system that we already offer. The mild hybrid serves not only to reduce consumption, but also to improve the driving experience. Because the good response behavior allows electrical components to improve acceleration and driving pleasure. The next stage will then be fully electric AMG of the new generation, for example the AMG EQS 53, which will be coming to our dealerships later this year.

So the internal combustion engine will die out in the foreseeable future?

In Switzerland, we are currently at 10 to 15 percent across all brands. We want to grow fast. But we must be clear: Thermal drives will still make up a large part of the active vehicle fleet for a long time to come. In Switzerland we are talking about almost five million registered cars. At Mercedes-Benz, we have set the course for an all-electric future and will be ready to go all-electric by the end of the decade. But I would like to emphasize again: the market must want this change. We are primarily committed to our customers.

Mercedes Switzerland boss Marc Langenbrick on future electric cars-future

The V8 engine of the AMG G63 delivers 585 hp.

Would you have to ban petrol and diesel engines completely if you wanted to switch completely to e-mobility??

I believe that individual wishes are highly respected in Switzerland. Personally, I’m not a fan of bans. Rather, market mechanisms should drive the switch to electromobility. That brings us back to the topic of the CO2 steering tax: If we want to steer something, then the steering wheel has to be connected to the wheels – or the CO2 emissions to the wallet.

How do you experience the acceptance of alternative drive systems among customers? Will interest remain, or will the cars also be bought??

The test drives are mostly very positive – electric driving is fun. Once it comes to loading, it gets harder. There are many uncertainties here.

What unsettles the prospective buyers?

Many Swiss people live in rented apartments or own condominiums, so installing a charging station is difficult. But if you can’t charge where you live, you might have charging options at work. But here, too, complete coverage for all employees is often hardly possible due to a lack of basic supply from the electricity provider or infrastructure in the building.

So more public charging facilities are needed in cities?

The problem continues in the city: There is a lack of incentives and good charging options for e-car drivers. Why should I drive an electric car into the city right now when I hardly have any parking spaces, can’t reserve them and have to pay sometimes excessive electricity fees in addition to the full parking rate? So everyone involved is required. For example, there needs to be a discussion about a legal right to set up charging facilities or general financial support for private charging stations. A nationwide charging network in Switzerland would have to be many times larger than today’s. Because without infrastructure, it will be very difficult to get people excited about electric driving.

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