BERLIN (Bloomberg) -- Daimler AG is sending fuel cell-powered Mercedes-Benz compacts on a 30,000km (18,600-mile) trip around the world to steal a march on BMW AG and Volkswagen AG.
Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher and racing colleagues Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard started the four-continent journey on Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany.
Three B-class models will head to Lisbon before crossing North America and Australia. The trip then takes them from Shanghai to Moscow and Stockholm before returning to Stuttgart in early June.
The display of the fuel cell cars, which don't emit carbon dioxide, is part of Daimler's campaign to highlight its connection with the invention of the first motor vehicles by founders Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler in 1886.
By leaning on its past, the world's second-largest maker of luxury cars is seeking to to gain an edge over BMW and Volkswagen's Audi unit.
“Daimler needs to regain some of its innovative edge, and fuel cells might help them do that,” said Philippe Houchois, a London-based analyst with UBS. “Daimler has pretty much been in the forefront on fuel cells, but they haven't been very consistent.”
The event in Stuttgart, which kicked off a year-long celebration of the German luxury carmaker's 125-year anniversary, was attended by about 1,400 guests, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“This unique round-the-globe trip with customer-ready fuel cell vehicles shows that we have sufficient pioneer spirit for at least another 125 years,” CEO Dieter Zetsche said in a statement.