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Dealers Fearful Of All-Hybrid Mercedes-Benz S-Class Range

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Dealers Fearful Of All-Hybrid Mercedes-Benz S-Class Range

By Viknesh Vijayenthiran

Editor

April 5th, 2010

According to Mercedes-Benz dealer sources, news that the automaker is considering an all-hybrid lineup for its next-generation S-Class is true. A Mercedes-Benz spokesman admitted to MotorAuthority.com last week that an all-hybrid S-Class lineup was under serious consideration, though nothing had been confirmed.

The reasoning is because of toughening fuel economy and emissions regulations coming into action across the globe. There’s also the matter that Mercedes-Benz wants to use its S-Class as a showcase of its future technologies and hybrids are one such technology that will be prevalent in the automaker’s next-generation of vehicles.

However, the people most in touch with customers, the dealers, say hybrids are still not perceived as icons of true luxury and performance. The same dealer sources have also revealed that even the high-performance AMG S-Class variants could also go hybrid, making the vehicle harder to sell against its gasoline only rivals.

Only a handful of dealers have been briefed on the plan but almost all have opposed the plans. Speaking with Automotive News, the chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealer board, Tommy Baker, said S-Class buyers are not persuaded by mileage figures and gasoline only models are going to be needed for the U.S. market.

Of course, the next-generation S-Class isn’t due until 2013 at the earliest and a lot could change, including customer perceptions, by then.

A final decision is expected within the next three months.

link:

http://www.motorauthority.com/blog/1044017_dealers-fearful-of-all-hybrid-mercedes-benz-s-class-range

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They can always use what GM calles mild-hybrid without naming it anything but the regular S350, S500, and so on, and then offer a full hybrid labelled as such... there are many ways to skin a cat!

Disclaimer for the PETA crowd: I do not endorse skinning cats.

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All-hybrid S class? U.S. dealers groan

Diana T. Kurylko

and Jason Stein

Automotive News -- April 5, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

NEW YORK -- To meet tightening global fuel-economy standards, Daimler executives in Germany are considering a radical plan: make the flagship S-class a hybrid-only lineup.

Mercedes-Benz dealer sources tell Automotive News that Stuttgart executives are considering switching all future S-class luxury cars -- including high-performance AMG models -- to full hybrids, offering no models with only internal-combustion engines.

The idea is drawing fire from some U.S. dealers, who worry that hybrids are not perceived as true performers in the market.

The switch would take place globally with the next-generation S class, which is due in Europe in 2013 and in North America a year later.

Only a handful of Mercedes dealers have been briefed on the plan. Those dealers will meet this week with Joachim Schmidt, sales and marketing chief at Mercedes-Benz Cars, at The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Mercedes is a sponsor.

Dealers say they have been vocal about their opposition to such a switch, which they feel would change the perception of the brand.

Tommy Baker, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealer board and a Charleston, S.C., Mercedes dealer, said: "The most important thing in the American market -- regardless of hybrid, lithium or electric cars -- is that we Americans are different than any market and we are going to want those gasoline engines."

For S-class buyers, Baker said, the "goal is not gas mileage."

Two company sources say the board is considering the shift because it would help Mercedes-Benz reach strict European CO2 emissions standards and tougher corporate average fuel economy standards in the United States by mid-decade.

The board also wants to use the flagship S class to highlight the company's hybrid technology. The S class traditionally has been used to showcase technological advances in the Mercedes lineup, and company executives believe S-class buyers are more willing to pay for costly green technology.

Competition is also a factor. Lexus is the leader in premium vehicle hybrid sales. Last year 10 percent of all Lexus models sold in the United States were hybrids.

A decision by the Daimler board is expected within three months, one company source said.

Ernst Lieb, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, confirmed Daimler is working on various "hybrid solutions for the S class."

"It isn't how will we do it, yes or no. The question is: Do we need other variations?" Lieb said last week at the New York auto show.

He would not reveal details of the discussions, but the dealer sources said the hybrid technology being proposed is in the development stage and would use lithium ion batteries. The S-class models would be full hybrids.

A mild hybrid uses an electric motor and acts as a start/stop system, but the electric motor does not drive the vehicle by itself. A full hybrid can be driven short distances using only the electric motor.

Mercedes-Benz now sells only a mild hybrid, the S400 -- which is the entry model for the S class and priced at $88,825, including destination. With an electric motor teamed with a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine, the S400 has 30 percent better fuel economy than a comparable S550.

The S400 is the only six-cylinder S class sold in the United States.

But U.S. dealers say hybrid versions of the S550 V-8 model and S600 V-12 models, and the costly S63 AMG and S65 AMG, would go too far, and they fear they wouldn't be able to sell the cars. The S65 AMG costs $202,025, including freight, and is purchased for performance, not fuel economy.

The biggest dealer concern is with an AMG hybrid and whether it would sell against gasoline-powered versions of the Audi S8 and BMW 7 series.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100405/RETAIL03/304059950/1168#ixzz0kEhO3SWM

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