If you were to sit down and make out a list of auto manufacturers that you would expect to make a big push for a fully electric vehicle, where would you put Mercedes? Near the top? In the top ten? Maybe, but probably not.
Mercedes is known for quality and for performance. For the pleasure of driving and standout luxury. Electric cars have tended to chase a different market. But that appears to be changing very soon.
Mercedes-Benz recently announced plans to invest one billion dollars to upgrade its electric-car-production capability in the United States. The German automaker will invest the cast to upgrade a plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and to build a battery plant nearby. The investment is expected to immediately create about 600 jobs.
The plant will focus on building electric SUVs. This is an interesting move by the company. To date, the electric SUV has been a tough idea for automakers to get to market. Tesla says it has one in the works, but other companies have only come so far as a hybrid SUV. Mercedes believes the world is “ready” for an electric SUV, telling CNN:
“With production locations for electric vehicles and batteries in Europe, China, and now in the United States, our global network is ready for the era of electric vehicles…”
Going electric is an interesting move for a company that has depended on a mix of gas and diesel in the very near past. But, concerns over diesel emissions, especially in the aftermath of the Volkswagen PR debacle, has many automakers rethinking electric.
It doesn’t hurt that much of the global market, especially in major emerging markets, is going greener. Europe has been trending electric for some time, with countries like France and Norway leading the way. But it is the focus on electric in China and India that have made the biggest difference for automakers.
The knock on electric has been twofold: access and cost. With billions in China and India interested in electric, it’s a pretty simple equation for most automakers to look at how they can get market share in those massive economies.
The big news here is that Mercedes is betting the United States is not far behind. As one of the richest and most populous countries, the United States was still lagging behind other nations in pursuing and investing in renewable energy. Now, though, that trend seems to be changing. Americans love their cars. Soon, they may even like them in electric.