Mercedes-Benz Building Compact EV for Global Market as EQ 'Brand' Grows Murkier

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mercedes benz building compact ev for global market as eq 8216 brand grows murkier

Daimler AG has announced an investment of 500 million euros ($589 million) for its plant in Hambach, France, to start production on a compact electric car for the Mercedes-Benz EQ brand. Known as “Smartville,” the complex was purpose built in the 1990s to supply the automaker with the first batch of Smart ForTwos and has been humming along ever since.

While numerous outlets have billed the model as a “Tesla fighter,” the rumor mill claims this vehicle is quite a bit smaller than the Model 3. That sounds reasonable enough, considering the new model would be produced in the same facility as the electric ForTwo and cabrio. However, the multi-million dollar investment will presumably go toward expanding the factory and procuring the EQ its own assembly line. We’ve heard nothing about the new Mercedes being a rebranded Smart vehicle.

There are actually a lot of gray areas to navigate here. While Mercedes spent a lot of time billing EQ as an electrified subsidiary, it’s already tacking the name onto electric Smart cars. The nomenclature now seems intended for any Daimler model with an electric powertrain, plus cleverly styled concept vehicles. Spyshots of the EQC sport utility vehicle, Mercedes’ first official entry into its broader EV effort, show the heavily camouflaged vehicle looking very much like the standard GLC-Class — not the concept EQs we’ve seen in the past.

With the exception of the powertrain, we expect the pair to share enough components for you to need to take a reasonably close look to tell them apart. Technically, the company’s Electric Vehicle Architecture is new. But it’s also directly based off the existing Modular Rear Architecture that the GLC currently uses. Daimler will probably give the EQC a unique grille and maybe some special trim pieces.

If that’s the recipe EQ is adhering to, the compact headed for assembly in France could be an electric version of the A-Class. Since Mercedes-Benz Cars intends to launch more than ten electric vehicles by 2022, hitting every segment, it would assuredly offer something in that size eventually. However, Mercedes is only giving us the faintest of hints to help move that theory out of the realm of complete speculation.

“The Smart plant in Hambach will become a part of our global compact car production network with the lead plant in Rastatt, Germany,” Mercedes production chief Markus Schaefer told Automotive News in a statement from Friday.

Rastatt is responsible for GLA and A-Class assembly, lending a smattering of credence to the hypothesis that the compact EQ might share components. Daimler has also announced its intent to produce luxury EQ models at its factory in Sindelfingen, Germany, where it builds the S-Class.


[Images: Daimler AG]

Join the conversation
  • RHD RHD on May 19, 2018

    It makes sense to make the electric vehicles very similar to current conventional cars, but with subtle differences. They need to be normal, not uber-futuristic or radical. More smart-like cars would result in a flop. The intelligent design would be to create the largest, best, longest-range battery possible, then build the car around that. When your choice of vehicle is between a gas-powered car with 350 miles of range and an electric car with 375 miles of range, for about the same price, then customers will snap them up.

    • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on May 20, 2018

      I think the opposite is true. People need electric cars to be exciting to overcome their current disadvantages (range anxiety, high prices, awful resale). Plus the auto industry has grown pretty stale overall design wise. Electric cars could provide the spark needed to make design a priority again.

  • Hunter Ah California. They've been praying for water for years, and now that it's here they don't know what to do with it.
  • FreedMike I think this illustrates a bit of Truth About PHEVs: it's hard to see where they "fit." On paper, they make sense because they're the "best of both worlds." Yes, if you commute 20-30 miles a day, you can generally make it on electric power only, and yes, if you're on a 500-mile road trip, you don't have to worry about range. But what percentage of buyers has a 20-mile commute, or takes 500-mile road trips? Meanwhile, PHEVs are more expensive than hybrids, and generally don't offer the performance of a BEV (though the RAV4 PHEV is a first class sleeper). Seems this propulsion type "works" for a fairly narrow slice of buyers, which explains why PHEV sales haven't been all that great. Speaking for my own situation only, assuming I had a place to plug in every night, and wanted something that ran on as little gas as possible, I'd just "go electric" - I'm a speed nut, and when it comes to going fast, EVs are awfully hard to beat. If I was into hypermiling, I'd just go with a hybrid. Of course, your situation might vary, and if a PHEV fits it, then by all means, buy one. But the market failure of PHEVs tells me they don't really fit a lot of buyers' situations. Perhaps that will change as charging infrastructure gets built out, but I just don't see a lot of growth in PHEVs.
  • Kwik_Shift Thank you for this. I always wanted get involved with racing, but nothing happening locally.
  • Arthur Dailey Love the Abe Rothstein tribute suits. Too bad about the car. Seems to have been well loved for most of its life.
  • K. R. Worth noting that the climate control is shared with (donated to) the Audi 5000 of the mid-late 1980s.