Reinventing the Wheel: Daimler Intentionally Becoming a Smaller Company to Facilitate Tech

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
reinventing the wheel daimler intentionally becoming a smaller company to facilitate

Daimler Chairman Ola Källenius went against the grain on Thursday by admitting the company he’s been tasked with overseeing will become significantly smaller in five years. That’s normally not the kind of thing you want to telegraph to shareholders via the media but he’s convinced this is the best course of action for the business.

“The next five years we will become a smaller company,” Källenius told Reuters. “We will have a fundamental change in the industrial footprint on the powertrain side.”

The future of Daimler apparently involves a half-decade metamorphosis into a services-focused software company that just so happens to build vehicles. But the vehicles won’t be those internal-combustion jobs that you grew up around. Instead, they’ll be hyper-efficient electrics from Mercedes-Benz as it re-imagines luxury within the strict confines of environmental sustainability. As a byproduct, Daimler will need fewer employees to help manufacture automobiles.

From Reuters:

Jobs will disappear because it takes less time to build an electric car than a conventional gasoline or diesel version.

That’s because an electric car’s battery and motor have only 200 components, compared with at least 1,400 parts found in a combustion engine and transmission, according to analysts at ING.

The shift away from fossil fuel requires the automaker to double down on efficiency so it can free up resources to build electric and self-driving cars, Kallenius [sic] said.

“We are hiring a lot of new software engineers, experts in battery chemistry, electrification,” he explained.

Making Daimler smaller also fits with a new era where luxury no longer defines itself through opulence and excess but also through sustainability and efficiency.

Traditional luxury is becoming passé now that Daimler knows splendor is incomparable with green movement. But its a concerning decision when we’ve yet to see any automaker other than Tesla showcase that EVs can reliably turn a profit. Even there, the American manufacturer gets a sizable financial boost from selling carbon credits to established firms with deep pockets and an inability to adhere with regulatory mandates.

Assuming governments around the world stay the course and continue doubling down on emissions fines and incentivizing EV purchases, Daimler might be on the right path. However it’s just one company of sea of manufacturers who are all attempting to do the same thing at a time when electric development programs are extremely costly and the vehicles themselves are failing to reach parity with their gas-driven ancestors at the necessary pace. What happens five years from now when there’s more direct competition in the electrified segment and the market is still dragging its feet with low adoption rates?

Källenius said this may not matter since Daimler will have an entirely different business model. Mercedes-Benz has been toying with the notion of selling fully equipped vehicles that have to have features unlocked via in-app subscription purchases (something we’re skeptical of benefiting consumers). But it thinks it can make money by implementing these changes and other digital services (customer data acquisition, new infotainment options, assisted driving packages, partnered advertising, etc.) offering recurring sources of revenue when it releases its new vehicle operating system in 2024.

“Think about it like an iPhone,” Källenius explained, noting that even more services could be added via over-the-air software updates and vehicle connectivity.

“You can add to it,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it.”

Mercedes-Benz sees China as the next growth market and will be directing most of its efforts to sell vehicles there. This may include allocating future production efforts inside the country and catering vehicles to the market’s taste.

“If we have individual models which reach a critical mass in China … that’s possible,” Källenius said, noting that production plans had not yet been finalized. “It depends on how the market develops.”

[Image: Franz12/Shutterstock]

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  • Snooder Snooder on Nov 16, 2020

    The title is a bit clickbaity, I think. From what I read of the press release, it looks like they aren't planning to sell less vehicles or make less money. They just mean "hey, you know those angry union assholes? Yeah we probably gonna need to pay less of them going forward."

  • Amca Amca on Nov 17, 2020

    Hey, have full with the "put all the eggs in the China basket" strategy there, guys. This will lead to tears, guaranteed.

  • Raven65 This was basically my first car - although mine was a '76. My Dad bought it new to use as a commuter for his whopping 15-minute drive to work (gas is too expensive!) - but it was given to my sister when she left for college a couple of years later - and then she passed it down to me when I got my license in 1981. It was a base model... and I mean BASE... as in NO options. Manual 4-speed (no o/d) transmission, rubber floor (no carpet), no A/C, and no RADIO (though I remedied that within a week of taking ownership). Dad paid just over three grand for it. Mine was a slightly darker shade of yellow than this one (VW called it "Rallye Yellow") with the same black vinyl "leatherette" seat covers. Let me tell you, the combination of no A/C and that black vinyl interior was BRUTAL in the SC summers! Instrumentation was sparse to say the least, but who needs a tach when you have those cool little orange dots on the speedo to indicate redline in gears (one dot for redline in 1st gear, two dots for redline in 2nd gear, three for 3rd). LOL! It wasn't much, but it was MINE... and I LOVED it! It served me well through the remainder of high school and all the way through college and into my first "real job" where I started making actual money and finally traded it in on a brand new '89 Nissan 240SX. They gave me $300 for it!!!. I wish I still had it. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
  • Analoggrotto Telluride is still better
  • Arthur Dailey So how much more unreliable is a 50 year old Italian made vehicle in comparison to a 5 year old Italian made vehicle? After 50 years wouldn't most of the parts and areas most prone to failure have been fixed, replaced and/or addressed?Asking for a friend? ;-)
  • Pig_Iron This is happy news for everyone in the industry. 🙂
  • Dukeisduke Globally-speaking, in August, BYD was the fourth best-selling brand name. They pushed Ford (which had been fourth) to sixth, behind Hyundai.