Mercedes-Benz India is going all guns blazing by strengthening its portfolio with two new SUVs. This is the first time the German luxury automobile manufacturer has launched an SUV with all three powertrains. The GLB is available in both petrol and diesel engines, while the EQB is an all-electric vehicle. Both SUVs will enter the Indian market via the CBU route. We speak to Santosh Iyer, Vice President, of Sales and Marketing, Mercedes-Benz India, who tells us about the two new SUVs, and how the EV ecosystem is evolving in India.
What was the thought behind launching both the GLB and EQB together offering all three powertrains at one go?
We identified that there is a vacancy for a seven-seater in the Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore segment, which is the core luxury market. Since we have both the GLB and the EBQ, we decided to offer all the powertrain options to our customers. Traditionally, customers choose a petrol or a diesel vehicle based on their requirements, travel distance and economy and EVs add to the choice. We offer the same warranty for both the internal combustion vehicle, the GLB, and the electric EQB, like the 8 years battery warranty or engine transmission. There is a demand for EVs from a sustainability angle. The green number plates give them a bragging right and not to forget the driving experience as these vehicles offer plenty of torque. Then we move on to the cost of ownership and the economics is significantly less than its ICE counterparts. We see a clear potential to expand the market now.
Your best-selling SUV, the GLC, is sold out and will only be available in the third quarter of next year. Do you see the GLB and EQB filling the void and demand?
Both these vehicles will be priced similarly to the new GLC, which will be easily priced above Rs 70 lakh. Hence, customers now have the option to opt for a seven-seater SUV. By offering a plethora of options, we also expect some cannibalisation of the products like a GLC potential customer may go for a seven-seater GLB due to its practical aspect. So, we have a car that meets everyone’s requirements and needs.
Mercedes-Benz has launched many EVs, which come with a slew of features. Does this mean the semiconductor chip shortage is now truly over?
The good thing is that the semiconductor issue is behind us. Now the challenge is the supply chain and the general parts like an armrest to the smallest panel in the car, which affects the production due to the short supply of parts. With the EQS, we have already delivered over 100 cars and we have more than 200 orders. The EV sedan is completely sold off for next year and these are quite positive numbers for a car that’s priced in the S-Class segment.
We expect the EQB to play a similar role in the mid-size segment that will grow the market and make EVs more acceptable. We also expect EVs to contribute 25 percent of our sales in four years.
In making EVs acceptable, the localization of parts plays an important part. How feasible is it in India?
The feasibility of the EQS was always there. It all depends on the mother plant if it has the capacity to make kits and send them to the market. So, in the case of the EQB or a GLB, we can’t do that from a technical standpoint. The Chakan plant has the flexibility to make the S-Class, EQS, Maybach, and AMGs along with a competent skilled force. We can also make multiple cars on the same line.
How have you seen the EV market evolve in India?
It is evolving and for us to hold the media drive of the EQB at the hills of Kodaikanal just says it all. With the availability of multiple chargers, including fast chargers, in both Madurai and Kodaikanal, the EV network is expanding. It is a chicken and egg story. If you don’t sell cars then EV-charging players can’t set up the infrastructure. At key highways across the country, we are setting up fast charging stations along with more than forty 180kW charging setups, which will be exclusive to Mercedes-Benz customers. Our dealerships also have charging stations and this facility is offered free for a year to our customers. We are also doing our bit to build this ecosystem. Nowadays, there is hardly any resistance to EVs from customers and this can already be seen in the mass market.