Daimler AG is pushing ahead with plans to produce an all-electric version of its flagship Mercedes S-Class sedan from next year even as it cuts back in other areas to weather a slump in demand across the industry.
The company’s main Mercedes-Benz cars unit aims to make all of its factories carbon-neutral by the end of 2022, Chief Executive Officer Ola Kallenius said Monday in a webcast. The goal was previously restricted to Europe, but Kallenius said a visit to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Tuscaloosa convinced him other plants could achieve the same goal.
“I had an opportunity, myself, at the beginning of the year, before COVID started, I visited our operations in Alabama in the United States where we build our SUVs,” Kallenius said. “And the team there presented a plan to me – what they can do in Europe, we can do here in Alabama as well. So now, we’re going for a worldwide carbon-neutral production by 2022.”
The webcast also included a look inside the Mercedes-Benz battery plant in Kamenz, Germany. It serves as the competence center for that automaker’s global battery-production network of nine plants in seven locations, including one nearing completion at the Tuscaloosa plant. Mercedes is planning to build hybrid and electric versions of all of its models.
Daimler also confirmed that it will roll out a fresh version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in the second half of this year, another key project.
It’s critical for Daimler to stick to its main strategic goals – from eliminating carbon emissions to boosting digital operations – to overcome the crisis sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak, Kallenius said. “We’re not taking our eye off the ball,” he added.
The world’s bestselling luxury-car maker has been looking to accelerate restructuring efforts in the wake of the pandemic, which closed factories and showrooms around the world. Demand in the brand’s largest market, China, has started to recover, while lockdown measures in Europe and the U.S. are gradually easing.
The crisis poses “a big challenge, but step-by-step we’re getting back on track,” Kallenius said. Most dealerships across the globe have reopened and showroom traffic in China is almost back to pre-crisis levels, he said.
“It’s a tad too early to make a final assessment” of the impact of the virus, he said, “but I see reason for cautious optimism.”