Daimler CEO Discusses Tesla, BYD, Electric Cars
Because it’s always interesting to hear a CEO discuss another automaker, we present a portion of a Car & Driver interview with Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche.
Zetsche is asked to discuss electric cars and Tesla Motors. Here’s that part of the interview.
Q: And electric vehicles? Buyers seem unconvinced.
A: And that is not truly surprising. Put simply, the customer gets a car with less range, longer refueling times, somewhat less space, and a higher price tag. Of course, there are some advantages, like the torque from zero rpm, and there are people who simply want to assume a leadership role in technology. But [customers] are focused mainly on value. As long as there are disadvantages, it will only be possible to gain customers through incentives and subsidies. I am convinced it is the technology of the future, however. The question is how long the transition will take. You can accelerate this process—or let it go its natural course.
Q: Does this mean you believe the internal-combustion engine will go extinct?
A: Yes—in the long run. It will be around for a long time, especially [in regard to commercial vehicles], but passenger cars will increasingly use hybrid powertrains. And eventually even the battery-electric vehicle will sell in relevant numbers.
Q: Daimler sold its shares in Tesla Motors; what role do you expect that company to assume in the wider automotive landscape?
A: If you choose to believe the financial analysts, a very heavy role. First, I have great respect for the work Elon Musk has done so far. Whether he will succeed with his future plans remains to be seen. At least he has managed to offset the aforementioned disadvantages of the electric motor with other fun factors, and he has been more successful at it than his competitors. The big question is whether this success is scalable and whether it can be transmitted to other segments. And I don’t have an answer to that.
Q: Would Mercedes-Benz have gotten away with such a car and all of its compromises?
A: Of course not. But this should not be taken as criticism of Tesla, because their customers are satisfied and proud of their cars. Seen this way, Tesla has done a great job.
Q: Will Daimler be involved in future Tesla models to the same extent as with the Model S?
A: It doesn’t look like it right now. We are always open for talks, but it is not our primary interest to help Tesla develop their next cars.
Q: Some of your competitors want to build “Tesla fighters”—do you?
A: We will most certainly not build a Tesla fighter. We have our own strategy and aim to define our own products. Of course, we observe the competition and try to understand its strengths—but we act, we don’t react. And if we build a fighter, it will be directed at our established competitors, not at Tesla.
Zetsche touched upon its partnership with BYD too.
Q: What are the long-term prospects for your partnership with Chinese carmaker BYD?
A: When we started that partnership, we were convinced that we shouldn’t just go to China to make a profit and send it back home; we also wanted to make a lasting impact. And since the interest in e-mobility is especially strong in China, we set out to jointly develop one with BYD. It was a considerable investment for us, and the Denza has become a really good car. Now we will wait and see how it performs on the market.
Q: Would you export the Denza from China?
A: It is not in our plans, but I don’t want to rule it out.
We’d love to see Denza in the U.S. It definitely has some impressive specs. See for yourself here.
Source: Car & Driver