How the luxury car crisis hits small cars
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The 600 biturbo (517 hp) accelerates from 0 to 100 km / h in 4.6 seconds.
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But the top model of the S-Class costs 155,354 euros.
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In the boardrooms of Mercedes, BMW and Audi they can no longer hear one word: scrapping bonus. It means that small cars are in demand as rarely, but large cars tend to sell poorly. A trend that ultimately harms everyone. Because only the upper class ensures automotive progress.
D.he multi-billion dollar subsidy program for the automotive industry has passed the German premium manufacturers almost without a trace. While Mercedes has a market share of 10.6 percent in Germany, the Mercedes share in the sales contracts that came about with the help of the scrapping bonus is only 1.5 percent. In the scrapping frenzy, people buy small cars and punish the rest with disregard.
Now, of all times, Mercedes is launching the revised S-Class, BMW is announcing the new twelve-cylinder engine in the 7 Series, and the successor to the A8 is in the starting blocks at Audi. These cars do not seem to fit in with the times, and they quickly become a political issue. “Cars that cost 10,000 to 15,000 euros completely cover the pure transport needs. Everything about it is irrational, "said Berlin’s rough finance senator Thilo Sarrazin (SPD) of the" Wirtschaftswoche ".
What Sarrazin and all the other critics overlook: The secure existence of luxury cars also serves small cars in the long term. The ABS anti-lock braking system is now standard equipment even in a Dacia; it made its debut in the S-Class in 1978. Customers were also able to order airbags from the largest Mercedes model series for the first time in 1980 – for the equivalent of 750 euros each. Without upper-class buyers who have to pay less attention to money, this technology would not have caught on so quickly: Today every small car has at least four airbags as standard.
When the revised S-Class starts in June at prices from 73,000 euros, it will again offer new safety systems that could be groundbreaking. On the one hand, it receives the updates that Mercedes has already introduced in the new E-Class: night vision device with integrated pedestrian recognition, traffic sign recognition, stepless adjustment of the high beam to oncoming traffic and the option of automatic emergency braking. Automatic crosswind stabilization is exclusive to the S-Class. Sensors record the lateral acceleration of the car, and the active chassis automatically adjusts the wheel load distribution so that the car deviates from the lane as little as possible.
"I would leave it open whether we will see this system in five years", says Ferdinand Dudenhoffer, head of the Center Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Dudenhoffer is convinced, however, that the integration of various assistance systems will continue – with the aim of "semi-autonomous driving". For this the developments of the upper class are necessary and trend-setting. “Innovations run from top to bottom. The upper class makes technology suitable for mass production only. "
Today there is no longer any discussion of comfort details such as power windows, central locking with remote control or power steering, but rather this technology is a prerequisite for every car. Beeping parking aids have also made their way into the small car class, and for the VW Golf there is even a rear view camera. “Independent parking will be standard everywhere in 20 years”, says Dudenhoffer.
However, this technology does not come from the upper class, Toyota and VW were the first to come onto the market with cars that relieve the driver of steering when parking.
The next exception to the rule is the hybrid drive: It became socially acceptable in a mid-range car, the Toyota Prius. Only now is Mercedes following suit, with the S 400 Hybrid.
It starts in June as the first German representative in the luxury class with a combination of gasoline and electric motors. The main drive in the car, which costs 85,323 euros, is a six-cylinder with an output of 279 hp. The gasoline engine is supported by a 20 hp electric motor, which sits as a space-saving disk between the automatic transmission and the combustion engine and also serves as a starter and alternator.
Both motors work together when starting up. This is particularly advantageous where consumption is greatest – in the city. The average consumption of the S 400 Hybrid, measured in accordance with EU standards, is 7.9 liters, which is 2.2 liters lower than that of the comparable predecessor model S350 (272 hp).
The S-Class is the first production car to use lithium-ion batteries to store electricity for the electric motor. Batteries of this composition are otherwise used in cell phones or notebooks and are comparatively light, but still quite expensive. They cannot be used in large numbers at the moment, which is why Toyota is also equipping the third generation of the Prius with nickel-metal hydride batteries at the start of sales.
Mercedes, on the other hand, uses the fact that S-Class customers compare prices less often. Small car buyers are very different, as the latest report from the Japanese manufacturer Daihatsu shows: The anti-skid electronics ESP will be removed from the range for the 3.47 meter short Cuore city car. The surcharge of 750 euros (ESP is senselessly linked to the purchase of light alloy wheels here) was too high for many customers of the 9,000-euro car.
Porsche will also offer a hybrid drive in the new four-door Panamera model next year, BMW is doing the same with the 7 Series, only Audi deliberately foregoing this technology and relying even more on lightweight construction in the 2010 successor to the A8. The hybrid technology is unnecessary, with revised engines you get the consumption values of the competition even without electrical support.
The aluminum body construction, which Audi has been cultivating for its top model for 15 years, has not yet established itself in the lower classes. The smaller aluminum model A2 even had to be discontinued after six years of construction because it was too expensive for customers. So not every path that a luxury car takes necessarily leads to the mass market. But the big cars are indispensable for discovering and trying out new paths.
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