U.S. dealers are fighting the idea, but Mercedes is seriously considering making its flagship S-Class cars all hybrid-powered. This would include high-performing AMG models as well. Look for a decision in the next three months, though next-generation S-cars won’t arrive until 2013 at the earliest.
There seem to be two reasons: 1. worldwide tightening of fuel economy and emissions standards; and 2. Benz’s desire to showcase its future technology in its top cars. Dealers (at least most consulted so far) say that upscale American buyers don’t care that much about gas mileage.
Tommy Baker, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz dealer board and a Charleston, S.C., Mercedes dealer, [who] said: “The most important thing in the American market—regardless of hybrid, lithium or electric cars—is that we Americans are different than any market and we are going to want those gasoline engines.”
Autoweek also mentions competition as a factor in the possible decision. Ten percent of all Lexus models sold in the U.S. were hybrids, and Benz wants to compete. But, say the dealers, putting hybrids into expensive performance cars like the S63 and S65 AMGs would make it hard to outsell competing cars like the Audi S8 and the BMW 7s.
The unknown in all this is, of course, whether a hybrid S550, for instance, would attract a whole new set of buyers. To determine that, a little market research and a lot more dealer interviews will be in order.
Mazda is making an important move by bringing its new SKY-G and SKY-D diesel engines to the U.S. The G-version will come first (possibly by 2011) and is supposed to increase fuel economy by about 15 percent and provide more power. The D-engine looks to achieve a 20-percent improvement over Mazda’s present diesel, which could translate to 43-mpg economy in the Mazda6 sedan.
Once again, we have the peculiar American market to contend with—in this case, its resistance to diesels. The Mazda gamble, like Mercedes-Benz’s, is that it can build virtually a new market segment for these cars. One way for Mazda to hedge its bet could be with its new hybrid-technology alliance with Toyota, which might bring Toyota-powered Mazda cars here.
CarGurus readers know that diesel technology makes sense, except to most Americans. It’s quiet, odor-free, responsive, and the engines start easily. You can go 600 or more miles before a fill-up. You will get around 30 percent better mileage than with gas, and thus produce 30 percent less CO2. Yes, diesels cost more, but the price is coming down, and the fuel economy generally amortizes this cost.
We’d like to see more of these German diesels in the U.S.
Would you consider driving a diesel? Under what circumstances?