I am living half of the year in on of the most important cities on the World, if you look from the car manufacturing perspective. That city is Stuttgart (Germany), where Mercedes-Benz (Daimler) and Porsche have their headquarters. Audi is also present, beside one of the biggest spare parts manufacturers – Bosch. Therefor I was always cheering for Mercedes and Porsche and I always had the privilege to see the newest models first on the road or even as test cars. Both Mercedes and Porsche were innovators in their fields. When Tesla cars came up I imagined that Elon Musk and his team have only few months left until the German manufacturers come up with a competitive car. But that wasn’t the case. Until today there is only one competitor to Tesla and he isn’t from Germany.
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Mercedes-Benz is “serious” about electric cars
This month in the local newspaper (Stuttgarter Zeitung) I read an interview with one of the board directors for innovation Thomas Weber. The article was titled “We are serious about electric cars” and I was happy to read such a statement. But after reading the whole interview I couldn’t believe what they understand under “serious”. The good news is that Mercedes is building their own battery factory (again), but in one sentence Mr. Weber managed to announce two Smarts with pure electric engine this year, one fuel-cell powered GLC next year and one electric car with 500km (310 miles) reach “in the future”. Porsche and Audi announced similar cars but for 2018. Mr. Weber was clearly pissed off by the repeated question when we can expect the car on the road and answered to the question if it will be in five years with “earlier for sure”.
First of all, Elon Musk showed the World what it means to be serious about something. Tesla built a car better than existing companies, from scratch. He built rockets which perform better than rockets which were being researched for 30 years by NASA. So how can you dare to tell that you serious about something if you don’t even now when the release year (not date) will be? Mr. Weber told the press again that the electric car market in Germany is small, only 40.000 electric cars are on the road. That isn’t even 1% of the market. This behavior is just childish, nothing else.
Mercedes-Benz finished cooperation with Tesla
Just three days ago (6th March 2016) Mercedes announced that they have finished the cooperation with Tesla and that they are building their own battery factory (repeated announcement). Mr. Harald Kröger (chief of electric development) said that the cooperation was successful but that Mercedes can “supply themselves good enough”. Some leaked information told us that Mercedes wasn’t only buying batteries from Tesla, they told us that Mercedes was buying the whole carcass from Tesla for their B-class.
Porsche Sportwagen Mission E and Audi Q6 e-tron
Mr. Weber told the press that Mercedes doesn’t want to be world champion in announcements like Porsche or Audi. They have announced their two cars (Mission E and Q6 e-tron) for 2018 (or until the end of the decade). Both announcements are being watched like optimistic announcements and most experts don’t believe that both manufacturers are able to build electric cars with a 500km (310 miles) range until the end of this decade. At least we see silent but good effort from Porsche, they are really working on they own platform and could succeed.
Why are German engineers not able to build a full electric car?
At one moment I really thought that they don’t have the knowledge, even if that was the last thing you could possibly imagine about an German engineer. And I was wrong. They don’t lack knowledge or the will to innovate, just the cash flow doesn’t go in that direction. But why? The manufacturers were waiting for subventions by the state (even they don’t need those pennies). Mrs. Merkel gave them some pennies and then stopped. So they gave up (closed the standalone battery factory) just to demonstrate that this is a state issue and not only their problem. So now Mrs. Merkel is working to release subventions for the car buyers, like Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Austria already did. In that case it won’t be only cheaper to drive a full electric car, it will be also almost as cheap to buy one as a new normal car.
Isn’t it already too late to even start competing with Tesla?
No, it isn’t, because the most competitive part are the batteries and batteries aren’t researched even 5%, if we trust what Elon Musk tells us. This is exactly what a car manufacturer from Croatia (Europe) has shown to the world. It is never late to enter the game, because there is 95% room left to improve. A nice future is ahead of us.
Electric hypercar from Rimac
Geneva (Switzerland) was the place to be these days if you love cars. Among all the big players, Rimac revealed the fastest car. It’s called Rimac Concept S and has 1384bhp. Topgear wrote a good article about it. Rimac is the only competitor to Tesla in all fields, especially in the battery market. Their density of kwh per kg is close if not even bigger than Teslas. Tesla has only luck that Rimac is focusing on hypercars, so Tesla will stay market leader for consumer cars for a while. But Rimac showed on their own example, that without help from outside, they were able to build a good battery. So if the Germans focus on this task, they can do it to. It is just a question how far away will Tesla be when they achieve what Tesla already has. Like Tesla, Rimac is selling their parts to other manufacturers. Mostly to Chinese companies, but who can guarantee us that Audi or Porsche aren’t buying from Rimac?
The BMW CEO arrogance
One is sure – Rimac isn’t selling to BMW. Like the company names tells us, the owner is Mate Rimac. A young entrepreneur with big ambitions. Mate always smiles and thinks positively. He achieved to build such a car in a country with much more problems like Germany and the US. He said in one interview that it doesn’t matter where you are, it only depends with whom you are building something. Mr. Kruger (CEO of BMW) will never be so humble, focused and dedicated like Mate Rimac and the idol Elon Musk. That proves his behavior in Geneva, where he opens the falcon doors of a Tesla Model X while a Tesla representative is giving an video interview. He sits down, tests the seats of the Model X and suddenly is being asked by the press what he thinks of the car and he lets the bliss of his arrogance out and says “it’s a prototype”. He fled out of the car and hit his head against the falcon door. Karma. You can see the whole video in German here.
After the video appeared on the internet, Mate Rimac commented publicly on that event:
I can imagine that Mr. Kruger doesn’t even know who Mate Rimac is, but one is sure – if the Germans continue to ignore the worldwide development of electric cars, that could have a huge impact on the German economy. But as it often happens – somebody innovates and then the Germans make it perfect. We hope to see that scenario in this case too. Elon Musk would be happy about that, because healthy competition is always good for the industry and at the end for the consumer.