June 28, 2009

German Automaker Releases Luxury Hybrid Model

German luxury carmaker Daimler released their first hybrid model last week, 10 years after Toyota debuted their best selling hybrid.

The Mercedes Benz S Class is now available in Europe with two motor options: electric and gasoline.

The "CO2 champion of luxury cars," as Mercedes calls it, is still one of the worst polluters available. However, a spokesman noted that, "We want to launch at least one hybrid model per year."

This is an unusual move for the German automaker, which normally makes large, powerful cars by Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Audi.

However, as green cars grow in popularity, Porsche is planning to release a hybrid version of its Cayenne sports utility vehicle in 2010, and BMW is arranging to release a hybrid model from its Series 7 line this year, though it is "too early to speak of full distribution," states to a BMW spokeswoman.

Gerd Lottspiesen from the environmental association VCD said to AFP that the German carmaker "has been asleep for several years."

"It repeatedly dismissed hybrids. If it is finally waking up, it's pretty late" measured up to against Toyota, which released the first hybrid Prius model a decade ago. Lexus, Toyota's luxury line, has sold hybrids for four years now.

"For years, the German automobile sector did not believe hybrids had a chance ... but at a certain point, under market pressure, the industry changed its mind," said Stefan Bratzel, professor at an auto center."

Since German automakers usually focus on diesel cars, they conquer the German market, while hybrids make up only 0.2% of the market last year.

Even though the majority of Germans remain attached to national brands, they could switch over if domestic hybrid models if they became more accessible.

"The environmental trend is becoming dominant," noted Frank Schwope, an auto analyst at NordLB bank.

In the past, Daimler has been one of the most opposed to the environmental movement. However, recently Daimler has started to increase their efforts in the area.

They recently purchased a battery company and has a 10% venture in the US electric carmaker Tesla.


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