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Edmunds - Mercedes Vs. BMW

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By: Alistair Weaver Date Posted 10-10-2005 BMW and Mercedes-Benz are at war again, and the stakes could not be higher. This is not simply a matter of 7 Series versus S-Class or SLK against Z4. This is a struggle for the future direction of the automobile. Inside Line asked senior figures from Mercedes and BMW to outline their companies' visions of the future, and while they agree on some issues, there are also some startling and fundamental differences of opinion. Munich is represented by Professor Raymond Freymann. As the managing director of BMW's Research and Technology division, he is responsible for "translating crazy ideas into reality." His department contains about 200 scientists working to define the BMW of 2030 and beyond. In the Mercedes corner is Hans Multhaupt. As the program manager for Mercedes' large cars, including the S-Class, SLR McLaren and Maybach, Multhaupt will engineer the luxury cars of tomorrow. Societal Changes — an Evolving Demographic The demographic of Western society will change significantly in the next 30 years, and this has an important bearing on both companies' future directions. "We can say for certain who has not been born," says Freymann. "The 'silver generation' is becoming increasingly important. By 2030, over a third of the world's population will be over 60. Single households are also on the increase, and women are now driving larger cars, particularly in the U.S." But we won't be witnessing the development of the BMW 70 Series or the Mercedes-Benz Silver-Class. "The silver people are the proudest on earth," continues Freymann. "A car built for old people would not be saleable, but you must also ensure that there's no reason for them to reject the car." The Importance of Brand The importance of "brand" has grown dramatically in Europe in the past 30 years, and it's also becoming more important in the U.S. In the future, established marques such as BMW and Mercedes will seek to reaffirm their brand values for the sake of an edge over new competition from emerging markets, especially China. "People will not buy products from companies they don't know and don't like," says BMW's Freymann. "Car manufacturers from countries like China will grow from the bottom up. They may become a threat to a company like Ford, but not to us. We are not just selling a car, we are selling an image." Both Freymann and Multhaupt are keen to define their core values. "The driver must always be in the loop, that's central to the BMW ethos," says Freymann. "People buy an M5 because it's fun to drive and those impulses won't change. Our cars must also be safe, stylish and reliable." Safety and reliability are also central to Mercedes' core values, but Multhaupt places a greater emphasis on comfort. While Freymann cannot countenance the thought of a driverless BMW, Multhaupt is happy to consider the concept of a Mercedes that, in certain circumstances, drives itself. But he reckons that the technology is unlikely to be in place for at least 30 years. This subtle difference of emphasis has a major bearing on the two companies' approaches. The "Engines" of Tomorrow Although both believe that hydrogen is the fuel of the future, the two companies differ dramatically in their application of the fuel. BMW is convinced that the future lies with internal combustion engines powered by liquid hydrogen. Freymann claims to have built a one-cylinder supercharged direct-injection hydrogen engine that's already 125-percent more efficient than a normally aspirated gasoline equivalent. Such an engine is a long way off, but in a couple of years, BMW will launch a bi-fuel version of the 7 Series, capable of running on hydrogen or gasoline. To service such a car, hydrogen filling stations have opened in several European cities, and California's Governor Schwarzenegger has committed to building a "hydrogen highway" in California. According to BMW's vision, we could be about to enter the age of the guilt-free V8. Mercedes' Multhaupt thinks that such a vision is "stupid." According to the engineer, the widespread use of hydrogen internal combustion will "never, ever happen" because an internal combustion engine will always be too inefficient. "By 2030, we will have fuel-cell vehicles powered by electric motors," says Multhaupt. "The principle problems are solved, now it is only a question of cost and we are making breakthroughs all the time." The development guru believes that an onboard transformer will be used to generate the necessary hydrogen. Freymann does accept that, "a small, 5kW fuel-cell unit could be used to power the auxiliary systems, such as the air conditioning, when the car is stationary." But he reckons that "fuel cells have a long way to go before they can become a viable, affordable means of driving the car." Safety Both men agree that further major breakthroughs in passive safety — the ability to further lessen the degree of injury in an accident — are now unlikely. More emphasis in the future will be placed on avoiding accidents (active safety). "A bird doesn't have armor. We need to develop the intelligence of a bird to avoid an accident," says Multhaupt. The key to this technology will be to develop a means by which cars communicate with each other. Several manufacturers have already signed an agreement to this end, and BMW is testing methods of intervehicle communication using wireless LAN networks. This technology would not only be used to help cars detect and respond to threatening situations, it could also be used to improve traffic management by automatically directing a car around a jam. "This is the big vision of the future," says Multhaupt. Steady as She Goes Science fiction books of the 1960s were full of flying cars and flying saucers, but even with the arrival of a hydrogen fuel source, both men have a conservative vision of the next 20 years. "We are talking about a flying car, but we are not working on one," says Freymann. "The car of 2030 will be better connected to the outside world — we've moved from a non-knowledge to a knowledge-based society, centered on the Web. But it will still be instantly recognizable to us," Freymann asserts. "Cars won't be flying on air cushions — they won't have six tires. The driving experience won't change dramatically." In this, Multhaupt agrees, noting that his company works in a notoriously conservative sector of the market. Hollywood visions of the future will therefore have to wait, but the times they are a-changing. The automobile will continue to evolve, most particularly under the hood. And in that fundamental area of fuels and engine technology, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are veering off in different directions. They will not both be correct in their assessment of the future. ------------------ Personally, I like BMW's approach to hydrogen. I love all the thrills associated with internal combustion, despite its inefficiency. A whirring fuel cell car isn't my cup of tea.

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If the bmw "scientists" have so much free time they're fretting over the cars of 2030, you'd think they could get their SUV quality up to snuff and develop a graceful way to back away from idrive. My favorite bit was "BMW managing director." Uh huh... you mean brand manager?

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My favorite bit was "BMW managing director." Uh huh... you mean brand manager?


If your sole purpose of posting is to annoy me with your personal, but indirect jabs (like the cheap shot at inaccurately mocking me above) and to start a fire, quit it. You're ruining my experience of this board by your never-ending bullying. And please don't pretend your innocence.

If you want me to go on, the Pontiac brand sits in GM's scheme much differently than the way BMW sits at BMW. I was satirizing the corporate structure of modern GM and its lack of brand individualization (SV6, anyone?), how Pontiac resides in GM like "Healthy Choice" in ConAgra. I mean, can anyone name the president of Pontiac?

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We made the same comment about two different car brands. I used your words. Big deal- it's all opinion. For someone who frequently satirizes in this manner, I would think this was pretty straightforward.

I have never addressed you personally, emp. Never told you where to go, what you are, to be quiet or that you're wrong for liking what you like. I'm not here for that shit. But should I likewise ask you to 'quit it' if I find many of your comments indirectly annoying?

BTW; Pontiac General Managers
Alfred Glancy '26-30
Irving Reuter '30-32
William Knudsen '32-33
Harry Klinger '33-51
Arnold Lenz '51-52
Robert Critchfield '52-56
Semon Knudsen '56-61
Elliot Estes '61-65
John DeLorean '65-69
James MacDonald '69-72
Martin Caserio '72-75
Alex Mair '75-78
Robert Stempel '78-80
William Hogland '80-84
Micheal Losh '84-89
John Middlebrook '89-96
Roy Roberts '96-98
Lynn Myers '98-03
Roger Adams '03-04
CJ Fraleigh '04-04
John Larson '04-present

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I'm astonished that people continue to buy Mercedes Benz C-Class cars. They are junk, and there are so many better options on the market.

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