MUNICH -- Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius wants the Mercedes-Benz brand to leverage its position at the intersection of luxury and technology to establish a strong foothold in the electric vehicle sector in the U.S.
That is why Mercedes decided to launch its EQS flagship EV sedan first in North America. Kallenius says the move will let Mercedes steadily build momentum in the market's nascent EV segment over the next decade.
"The S-Class is such a symbol for the brand and that will help us create the momentum we need for the decade," he said on the sidelines of the IAA Munich auto show last week. "We start with the flagship and show what a luxury dedicated architecture looks like, and since we are restricted in terms of deliveries anyway, it does not matter from a volume point of view. So, we lead with the EQS, which was the strong wish from the market."
Mercedes can both lead in the luxury segment, and through this strategy, have the required pull effect that is needed to shift the market more quickly toward electric vehicles, Kallenius believes.
"It's not about creating a halo product. It's about taking a first step," Kaellenius said. "We are upping the ante on the product side, and we are on a very accelerated path. We have to get 100 percent of the market."
When it comes to a sustainable future in the market, he noted shifting to EVs is not enough. Having a renewable energy supply is also crucial.
"The biggest task where we can work hand in hand with governments is an infrastructure build out and clean energy sources," he said. "Those things have to be synced to get to a CO2-free world."
Growing China customer base
Kaellenius said he sees China as the greatest opportunity for growth in the premium market, noting that if one looks at the demographic trends regarding wealth and growth of the country's upper middle class, there is a growing number of people for which buying a Mercedes could be a consideration.
"If you do a projection to 2030, that demographic is going to grow significantly. The demand is for the combination of luxury and technology together," he said. "That symbiosis is Mercedes, and I believe the market is coming toward us, and that includes the mature markets."
He pointed to China as the world's largest car market, and committed to a continual investment in production infrastructure, as well as R&D and a range of supply partnerships.
He called the company's current product portfolio it's "most attractive" ever and said Mercedes has been "overwhelmed" with interest.
"Our order entry has been extraordinarily good, there is a very strong demand situation, and regardless of the recent global stress tests, we are confident of our product portfolio," he said.