BERLIN -- Mercedes-Benz expects to have factories exclusively producing electric vehicles by the second half of the decade but will steer clear of building EV-only plants, instead keeping production lines flexible to match market demand.
The automaker foresees some of its production lines within factories switching fully to electric even sooner, production chief Joerg Burzer said in an interview with Reuters.
"Building a whole new battery-electric vehicle factory takes time. We have taken another approach," Burzer said.
"We will certainly have some lines producing only electric vehicles in the next few years ... we also see whole factories switching to electric -- that is a topic for the second half of the decade."
The premium brand will launch production of its EQE model, revealed last September at the Munich auto show, in Bremen later this year, followed by Beijing and its U.S. plant in Alabama.
Mercedes is betting on the model, an electric adaptation of the E-Class with a peak range of 660 km (410 miles), to boost EV sales as it shifts investment away from combustion vehicles and toward electric-only production platforms.
"With the ramp-up of the EQE in Bremen and later in Beijing, we are coming into a segment where we can deliver at far higher volumes," Burzer said.
Just 2.3 percent of Mercedes-Benz Cars' sales, which includes the Smart brand, last year were EVs, rising to 11 percent when including plug-in hybrids.
As of 2025, the automaker expects full-electric and plug-in hybrid cars to make up 50 percent of sales, with full-electric cars expected to account for most of that.
Existing models are all being built in factories that also produce vehicles with internal combustion engines, with batteries transported by rail from the automaker's main plant in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart, to factories in Germany and Hungary.
Down the line, battery assembly and production could be brought nearer to car plants as the design of vehicles develops to integrate the battery more closely into the car, Burzer said.