MUNICH, Germany — BMW
are making their biggest push yet into electric cars in a bid to fend off rising competition from Chinese players and catch up with U.S. giant Tesla
In the last few days, as part of the IAA Mobility motor show in Munich, Germany, the auto giants took the wraps off electric concept cars and new platforms for their future battery-powered vehicles.
European carmakers, which have been perceived to be behind Chinese companies like Warren Buffett-backed BYD
and Elon Musk’s
Tesla, have had to move quickly to show the market they’re ready to be major players in the electric era.
On Sunday, Mercedes-Benz unveiled its Concept CLA Class, an electric vehicle built on a new architecture that will underpin future battery cars from the German auto giant. The company said the concept car has a range of 750 kilometers (466 miles) as well as an ability to reach a range of 400 kilometers with just 15 minutes of charging.
Mercedes CEO Ola Kallenius talked up the car, calling it a “revolutionary development” for the German firm.
“With those efficiency numbers, that kind of range, that kind of fast charging, I am not aware of any vehicle, in that class that can match that,” Kallenius told CNBC’s Annette Weisbach on Sunday.
On Saturday, rival BMW showed off the “Vision Neue Klasse,”
another electric concept car that highlights the company’s EV ambitions. Neue Klasse is BMW’s new architecture for its EVs. The first vehicles based on this platform are set to enter production in 2025.
“In only two years’ time, these cars will hit the road and with that, overall, we lead BMW to a new era of innovation and sustainability. That’s the purpose of our show here at the IAA,” BMW CEO Oliver Zipse told CNBC’s Arabile Gumede.
Zipse said BMW is going to double its EV sales this year. By the end of 2023, 15% of BMW’s global sales will be battery EVs, he added.
Mercedes and BMW’s dedicated EV platforms are a departure from previous architecture where they would adapt combustion engine or hybrid models and add batteries. This is the companies’ biggest push yet toward a new platform for the electric vehicle era.
Analysts said that Mercedes and BMW’s announcements are big steps but might leave them still lagging behind Tesla.