Both BMW and Mercedes announced innovative new concept electric vehicles (EVs) this month that they say can compete with the range and capabilities of new Tesla models.
The automakers hope to combine their extensive manufacturing experience with new EV technologies to create models that will compete not only with the biggest U.S. and European EV makers but with China’s rising stars.
This month, both BMW and Mercedes have unveiled impressive new concept cars that could rival Tesla in EV capabilities. The German automakers displayed the Mercedes-Benz Concept CLA Class and the BMW Vision Neue Klasse at the IAA auto show in Munich. Both companies are building their cars on totally new platforms that will shape their future EV models. Until now, traditional automakers have been criticised for playing catch up with EV manufacturers when it comes to software, but these new releases could change all that.
Mercedes-Benz’s Concept CLA Class is expected to have a range of 750 km, able to achieve a range of 400 km in 15 minutes of charging. Mercedes CEO Ola Kallenius said the new EV was a “revolutionary development”. He stated, “With those efficiency numbers, that kind of range, that kind of fast charging, I am not aware of any vehicle, in that class that can match that.”
Mercedes will continue to focus on “value over volume”, according to Kallenius. He suggests that the company will continue to aim for the high-end market segment over large sales numbers. The firm has focused closely on the interior and user experience of its EV, including an integrated giant screen across the dashboard with a voice assistant. It will also be compatible with third-party apps, so users can play music or stream videos through the car’s system.
Meanwhile, BMW’s Vision Neue Klasse, another electric concept car that was revealed at the show, will be the first of a range of BMW EVs to use a new platform. Much like Mercedes, BMW is focusing on providing customers with the car’s classic design, while integrating sleek new aspects such as a glass roof. It is expected to enter production in 2025. The CEO of the German automaker, Oliver Zipse stated “In only two years’ time, these cars will hit the road and with that, overall, we lead BMW to a new era of innovation and sustainability. That’s the purpose of our show here at the IAA.” Zipse hopes BMW will double its EV sales in 2023, meaning that EV sales could contribute 15 percent of the company’s total global sales by the end of the year.
While BMW is likely to continue offering high-end models to their consumers, other German automakers are taking a different approach. Volkswagen is releasing a range of EV models at different price points to appeal to all segments of the EV market. The manufacturer announced this month that it will be releasing 11 new all-electric models by 2027. It expects to launch its ID. 2all in 2026, with a price tag of under $26,942. Volkswagen also demonstrated the ID. GTI Concept at the IAA show this September.
BMW and Mercedes will now use dedicated EV platforms rather than adapting combustion engines or hybrid models and adding electric batteries. This is expected to make the company’s EV models competitive with major EV makers, such as Tesla, as well as rising Chinese stars, such as BYD. However, it is still uncertain whether the companies’ big claims for these concept cars will be seen in practice.
As well as Tesla, there is stiff competition from a range of Chinese EV makers, many of which were previously unheard of. While China is little known for its automaking capabilities, it is the rising star of the electric vehicle. The Chinese government has invested heavily in renewable energy in recent years, having developed its lithium mining and battery-making capabilities significantly. The Chinese company BYD achieved 15 percent of the global EV market share in the second half of 2023, after the EV market leader Tesla, which held 20 percent of the market.
However, when asked about competition from Chinese EV makers, Zipse stated, “No, we are not afraid at all.” He explained. “That is a sign of attractiveness when global players like the Chinese, which is the largest car market in the world, come here to Munich and showcase what they want. It is far more than auto, this is a tech show, this is an innovation show.” He added, “And I think to have everyone here, the Americans, the Europeans and now also the Chinese, is super exciting. You hear it in my words already, I’m more excited, and I’m not afraid at all, and it is good that we have a show which attracts a lot of competition. That’s super.”
Recent announcements from BMW and Mercedes at the IAA auto show, as they unveiled new concept cars, suggest that they are finally changing their approach to EV software in an attempt to catch up with some of the world’s EV giants. This shift in strategy could make them highly competitive as they combine their extensive manufacturing know-how with new EV technology to produce electric cars with impressive capabilities and sleek designs.