Exclusive: India deserves EVs, EQC just the start, says Mercedes
At a time when several car makers are launching electric vehicles in foreign markets but remain hesitant to bring these to Indian shores, Mercedes-Benz has brought in the EQC luxury electric SUV here in a bid to woo and wow prospective buyers. At ₹99.30 lakh (ex showroom, first 50 units), it may only be for a niche set of customers but Mercedes says it feels the time is now to offer a product here.
Speaking to HT Auto, Santosh Iyer, Vice-President, Sales and Marketing at Mercedes-Benz India, highlighted that the decision to launch EQC here was taken after an extensive thought process. "We have a clear ambition of zero emission (vehicles) by 2039. To fit in there, we say that 50% of all cars we sell have to be electric by 2030. So we have to start somewhere and we have to make the market mature. With a fantastic product like EQC, we felt we can't wait further," he said. "We also thought it is also our responsibility to make customers aware and let them experience these products. There were a lot of deliberations, lots of discussions but we thought India deserves these products."
But is the Indian market mature enough? Iyer feels that Mercedes has paved the way into uncharted territories and the EV space is going to be no different. "We came to India 245 years back and at that time, the luxury market was also not mature enough. (But) we made the investments and we are reaping the benefits. When it comes to technology, it is a chicken and egg story. You cannot wait for customers to start asking. As manufacturers, we are also responsible to give them a taste of new technology," he elaborated. "When Indians go abroad, they drive such cars and want to come back and own and drive these here too."
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As for range-related anxieties, Mercedes says it is doing its bit to ensure that while the EQC itself has a claimed range of over 450 kilometres, a wall mount charge unit - included in the EV's price - is also fitted at a customer's preferred location. "We are also putting 100 charging points at our dealer networks. Plus, the public charging infrastructure are all part of the EQ ecosystem," said Iyer.
Asked if the EQC has the potential to eat into the target audience for the likes of GLS SUV, Iyer said that the products in the Mercedes garage cater to specific customer groups. "To start with, we feel our own current Mercedes customer base would like to shift to electric. People with multiple cars in their household would also look at an electric drive. Fortunately, we have a very wide portfolio and don't want to hold back this portfolio at the risk of cannibalization. We feel there is a market for each of the segment," he outlined, adding that GLE and GLS are still enjoying strong demand. "There can be some cross shopping yes but that is fine. The customer has to have the power to decide."
The EQC has been launched in six cities in phase one - Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai. It will gradually be taken elsewhere even if people from other cities can even book the car currently using the company's online outlets. Will EQC's possible success here make rivals step up and take note? "We welcome competition because we fight them worldwide. This is just the beginning in Mercedes portfolio," concluded Iyer.