Daimler electric car strategy Daimler EV brands Sales News

The Chinese auto sector is getting ever confusing after this weeks announcement that Geely‘s owner Li Shufu, one of China’s top 10 billionaires, amassed a 10% stake in Daimler, making him the single largest shareholder in one of Germany’s crown jewels. The transaction comes shortly after Daimler’s approval to acquire around 5% in Geely competitor BAIC BJEV, Daimlers partner to develop electric vehicles in China. Daimler is also a JV shareholder with BYD in the EV manufacturer Denza. Geely already owns Volvo which competes with Mercedes on passenger vehicles and trucks. The reasoning behind the acquisition in Daimler by Li Shufu is to force an alliance on the development of electric and self-driving vehicles and to gain access to Daimler’s technology. The acquisition by Geely in Daimler could very well put pressure on the German company’s partnership with BAIC.

Volvo Trucks dropped the chief executive of Geely’s Volvo Cars from its board within a day from the announcement. The Swedish truckmaker cites competition concerns with rival Daimler as the reason behind the decision.

Germany tightened its rules on foreign takeovers after a series of deals by Chinese company’s gaining them access to German technology. The string of transactions is in an environment where Chinese companies are becoming increasingly confident and assertive while western companies are prohibited from acquiring controlling ownership of Chinese rivals. The stealth transaction by Li Shufu, the son of a farmer, is under investigation as he surprised the market due to not disclosing breaching the 3 and 5% thresholds as required by German law.

The transaction is highlighting concerns by the West that China is gaining access to proprietary technical know-how, which has up to now been one of the regions aces in international trade. The trend is not just limited to auto companies, Chinese tech giant Tencent acquired a 5% stake in Tesla in 2017 while at the same time investing in electric and autonomous technologies through investments in NIO and Weima. Although the Tencent shareholding does not allow the company direct access to Tesla’s IP, it still provides the company access to Tesla’s strategy and business decisions. Tencent also partnered with GAC recently on the development of self-driving technology. Another Chinese auto company that bought into western technology is SAIC which acquired British icon MG.

Mercedes-Benz announced the creation of its new EV specific brand, EQ, at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 2016. This week the luxury carmaker showed us more of its Vision EQ by unveiling the Smart Vision EQ ForTwo in the week running up to the Frankfurt Auto Show. According to the company, the Smart EQ provides a new vision of urban mobility where individualization options make the shared vehicle feel like “your” vehicle. The Smart EQ is the first vehicle from the Daimler Group to take the logical step of dispensing with a steering wheel and pedals. The Smart EQ is developed according to the German automaker’s CASE strategy which stands for the strategic pillars of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric). EQ plans to introduce more than ten new electric cars by 2022, from the Smart up to a large SUV.

The Smart EQ has a battery capacity of 30kWh, nearly double that of the 2017 Smart ForTwo ED. The vehicle functions are controlled via personal mobile device or voice input, an arrangement that is intuitive, convenient and hygienic. Dispensing with conventional control elements makes the white interior appear even more spacious. The dashboard is replaced by a 24-inch (58.5 x 15.6 cm) screen which is surrounded by a rose gold-colored frame.

Daimler and Chinese BAIC Motors this week agreed to increase the investment in the Sino-German Joint Venture, Beijing Benz Automotive Co (BBAC), to manufacture electric vehicles. The partners agreed to a further investment of 5 billion yuan (655 million euros / $735 million) at a signing of the heads of agreement in Berlin in the presence of German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The investment by the German automaker is a further commitment to electric vehicles as it implements the aggressive electric vehicle strategy. BBAC is the localization of the Mercedes-Benz brand and will see its first electric vehicle rolling off the production line in 2020.

In June 2017 both partners agreed to strengthen their strategic collaboration through investments for New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) in China. As part of the investment agreement, Daimler announced its intention to acquire a minority share in Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd. (BJEV), a subsidiary of the BAIC Group, with the purpose of strengthening strategic collaboration with BAIC in the NEV sector.

The investment will be used to extend the BBAC plant in Beijing, established in 2005 and already Daimler’s largest Mercedes-Benz passenger car production hub, to become a BEV production hub in China. The establishment of a BEV production hub will commence with the building of an eBattery factory, which would be Daimler’s first foreign location of its global battery production network. Daimler plans to invest one of the ten billion euro earmarked for its electric vehicle strategy in the global battery production network for Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The network already includes the site in Kamenz, Saxony, built in 2010, where a second state of the art battery factory is being built with an investment of around 500 million euros. Mercedes-Benz will source the cell for its battery plant in Beijing from Chinese suppliers.