|A nice place to be, if not to drive.|
Mercedes has finally joined the EV bandwagon, with four models to choose and a couple more coming in the coming months, i thought it was time to do a little mistery shopping and see how Mercedes sales force handle EV's and their potential buyers.
Model of choice: Mercedes B-Class ED, the only pure electric car available, and honestly, the only MB plug-in model i would see myself having.
I went to a Mercedes dealership in Lisbon, with several models on exhibition, none of them of the plug-in variety.
I was quickly referred to the plug-in sales specialist, that introduced me briefly to the B-Class and the Electric Drive specifics, i asked him if there was any model available for the test drive, to which he answered me in a positive way and asked me to wait a few minutes while he was going to ask the car for the drive.
While i waited, i looked around and thought: "I should have brought a suit", considering how grown up and formal the ambiance was is the dealership, in stark contrast to the Apple-like environment and enthusiastic reception i had in the BMW i dealership a year back.
And the reference to BMW is important, as driving the Mercedes, i realized that despite both the i3 and the B-Class ED sharing similar prices and power specs, they have very diferent approaches to the electric car concept: While the Bimmer was made from scratch, has a love it / hate it design and stands as a hot (RWD!) hatch to blast in the Megacities (A BMW Mini?), the Mercedes is just about the opposite: A sensible adaptation to an existing car that blends through traffic, the B-Class is spacious, comfortable and wafts in serenity that lends it an upmarket feel, enhanced by the absence of noise and instant torque, so you could call the Merc an EV with Grand Tourer spirit, in contrast to the BMW i3 urban sports car frenzy.
During the test drive i made a couple of questions regarding the car and vehicle charging, to which the sales person answered correcly but without too much detail (Once again, i missed the more engineer/nerd-like answers from the i-genius salesperson of the BMW i).
Back to the dealership, i asked for a Lease simulation, to which he asked me a couple of questions regarding equipment options and offered a couple of them for free, in the end he delivered me the simulation and asked me if i wanted the car right away or if i could wait a bit.
"Why?" - I asked.
- Currently we don't have any ED ready for delivery, we are having a higher demand than expected, and this is a specific version...
- And much time would i have to wait?
- Around three, four months...
I answered that i wasn't much in a hurry, but four months sounded too much, to which he replied: "Probably in January we could have it here..."
After this small dialogue, i said i would decide in a couple of weeks and then i would give him some feedback.
Mercedes is playing safe with EV's, they don't have the problem Renault has with an unwilling sales force, but they are not also on a goundbreaking path like BMW with their "i" sub-brand searching for customers not only within the BMW demographics, but also looking to conquer new customers that wouldn't think in buying regular BMW's.
Basically, plug-in Mercedes are for current three-pointed-star customers that wish to switch to electric (hybrid) drive, be it for tax reasons or others.
Finally, a request to Dieter Zetsche and the Mercedes management team: I know four months won't be a deal breaker for most customers, but nevertheless, you could increase just a tad the plug-in version quotas, so that those waiting can get their plug-ins with more normal deadlines, and a sidenote, BMW is selling four times more plug-ins than Mercedes...