The next big things: Mercedes-Benz’s futurologist

Published: 31 January 2017

► Mercedes' EQ brand chief speaks
► We interview Jens Thiemer
► Daimler's electric future explained

Jens Thiemer is responsible for launching Merc’s EQ,  Stuttgart’s take on arch rival BMW’s Project i. Here he gazes into his crystal ball...

> EQ is our first electric car for the new generation of clean-fuel Mercedes-Benz cars.

> Within five years we’ll have a whole family of EVs. By 2025, 15-25% of the Mercedes range will be fully electric. Add in PHEVs [plug-in hybrid electric vehicles], and they’ll make up 50% of our range.

> These new cars are purpose-designed; they will not be existing cars. Our concept car at the Paris motor show was called Generation EQ (below) because we wanted to say it’s a whole family coming.

> The model you see here is very close to our first electric production car. You will see it in late 2018 and the price will be comparable to a top-end GLC.

Mercedes EQ: points to an electric crossover, GLC-sized

> Why do a mid-sized SUV first? Because this is one of the biggest segments in the world. It’s the type of car modern motorists want.

> There are four megatrends disrupting our industry. We call them CASE: Connectivity, Autonomous driving, the Sharing economy and Electrification. The challenges are the same for all car makers.

> We are responding fast. We already have partly autonomous driving in many of our cars. But you’ll see us respond to CASE much, much more in the future. It will revolutionise our world.

> BMW i is an interesting project: having a dedicated brand for your electric cars [BMW i3 below] gives you more focus and allows you to speak to more people who might not have been interested in your existing brand.

BMW i3: inspiration for EQ

> People will still want differentiation in the new era. In fact, the brand will be even more important in the bold new digital-first era.

> We have to bring something new to market. And we have to electrify the design too. We think the front end of the EQ is a very strong signal of our intent.

> Mercedes-Benz sees the end of car ownership among people in metropolitan parts of the world. They want to rent vehicles by the kilometre instead. Distribution will be different too. We will not exclude our dealers, but there will be a proportion of online sales.

> The car of tomorrow becomes the digital device. Our services must be completely integrated with it. People must be able to borrow a Mercedes for specific journeys very easily, booked through their smartphone.

The EVs' interiors will be equally radical

> Uber is a classic disruptor. We think of them as the frenemy.

> It will take us two to three years to establish the EQ brand. But this process is already underway. We will have 10 PHEVs on sale by the end of 2017.

> What of hydrogen? We are still developing fuel-cell technology. It’s just another type of electric car, don’t forget.

> Everything is changing at present. We have to be bold. We must not be like a big oil tanker. We must move quickly.

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Jens Thiemer: responsible for Mercedes-Benz's electric vision

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet