SINDELFINGEN, Germany -- Mercedes-Benz hopes to regain technological leadership in the upper-premium sedan segment from Tesla when it launches the next-generation S-Class at the end of this year.
"The S-Class is the icon of the brand,” Daimler CEO Ola Källenius told reporters in the halls of Factory 56 near Stuttgart, where the car will be built.The new S-Class, internally referred to as V223, will have a virtual assistant able to both converse with the driver as well as take full control in congested highway traffic.
The new S-Class, which can be ordered starting in the middle of this month, is scheduled to arrive at German showrooms in December. Market launches in the U.S. and China are expected in February.
Mercedes sold more than half a million units of the current generation, which debuted in 2013. The success of the high-margin model coincided with the brand’s resurgence, as it regained the title of world's best-selling premium brand after trailing rival BMW for years.
More than a third of S-Class customers are in China, and the model’s owners are disproportionately more loyal to the brand.
But the S-Class has been eclipsed by the Tesla Model S in the key North American and European markets.
The U.S.-based electric vehicle specialist has convinced a large number of wealthy buyers that it is biggest innovator in the industry.
According to JATO Dynamics, the S-Class ranked first in the upper-premium segment in Europe in the first half, with 2,138 sales, ahead of the BMW 7 Series and Audi A7. However, during the same period Tesla sold 2,469 units of the Model S in Europe, which would have made it No. 1 in the segment had it not been in the electric vehicle segment. This situation was the same in the U.S. market during the first half (see tables, below).