How the Mercedes EQS Concept Will Battle Tesla

Our first impressions of the S-Class of Electric Cars—the Mercedes EQS Concept.

Zach GaleWriter

Mercedes is coming for Tesla. We've heard it all before, but the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS concept is the latest indication that the Germany luxury automaker is serious about electric cars. Unveiled at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show, the Mercedes EQS is a sleek preview of the brand's future electric flagship. Because although the EQC SUV may soon sell well, the production car derived from the EQS concept will drive perception of the brand.

"Modern luxury has to be sustainable and sustainably fascinating," said Ola Källenius, chairman of the board of management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Straight from the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show, here are some early thoughts on what the new Mercedes EQS concept could mean for Tesla lovers everywhere.

Mercedes Styling is a Big Deal

The Tesla Model S remains one of the most attractive full-size luxury cars of the last decade. But that's part of the problem—a Model S driver who purchased theirs shortly after the incredible electric car became Motor Trend's 2013 Car of the Year will find that, at least for now, the car's style has barely changed in many years. If a Mercedes EQS does in fact head to production as an S-Class alternative, it'll offer buyers a fresh style for the segment, perhaps one more conventional than the new Porsche Taycan. And when it comes to luxury cars, an emotional connection through fresh design can be crucial.

Although a production-ready EQS flagship is probably many years off, you can bet that Mercedes electric cars won't go more than six or so years between full redesigns.

The Three-Pointed Star Means Something

Tesla's extraordinary success is pushing forward the entire industry, which had seriously lagged behind the American automaker in electric car segments. There remain buyers out there, however, who will always feel comforted by the promise of a car company that's been around for more than a century—and one with a huge dealer network. The EQS' taillights speak to the lasting power of this brand: They're composed of 229 individual three-pointed stars. Excessive? Maybe, but we hope a toned-down version of the EQS concept's rear design makes it to a production EQS electric car or other EQ model.

So Many Choices

As enormous images of plug-in and electric Mercedes cars appeared on stage before three floors of packed stands of journalists, what struck me was the ability of current and future Mercedes buyers to move from one model to another as their wants and needs change. Tesla is working on this, as it'll soon have two SUVs as well as its two cars. With Mercedes, though, the number of options is astounding. At least in some markets, the A-, B-, C-, E-, and S-Class models all offer a plug-in hybrid model. And at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show, Mercedes announced plans for an updated GLC plug-in and a new GLE plug-in, too. Read about the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e plug-in here.

So if, in the future, you decide you don't want a sleek four-door (whether it's an EQS or something else), Mercedes will offer many other plug-ins and electrics.

Back to Reality

Look, we get it. The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS is an effective statement because designers could make huge allowances in the name of style. It's just a concept, whereas Tesla has been actually selling attractive electric cars for years. German automakers have given Tesla a huge head start, and we're looking forward to a fuller range of electric cars attracting new buyers to the segment, customers who may have never considered an EV before.

"The transformation of our company is in full swing," Källenius said.

We don't doubt it. Mercedes hopes to sell 25 percent of its cars online by 2025, and it expects a much greater percentage of its sales to come from lower- and zero-emissions vehicles in the future (measured at the tailpipe). It's a big change from when it hired Tesla to help with the engineering of the B-Class EV years ago. For now, Tesla's still got the sub-$150,000 luxury electric car market mostly to itself. How much longer that will be the case remains to be seen, but we look forward to seeing what the Mercedes S-Class of electric cars—perhaps inspired by the EQS concept—might look like.

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