Welcome to the Hyperdrive daily briefing, decoding the revolution reshaping the auto world, from EVs to self-driving cars and beyond.
The sprawling Mercedes-Benz factory complex in Sindelfingen, Germany, has been churning out cars for more than a century. This week, it started a new chapter.
Mercedes kicked off serial production of the EQS the all-electric sibling of the companys flagship S-Class sedan on Wednesday, a milestone for the brand thats taken its time to embrace EVs. My colleagues
Christoph Rauwald and
Hannah Elliott have already written extensively about the cars market-leading battery range and luxurious interior. Its the first Mercedes model built with dedicated EV underpinnings. But the sea change isnt just happening under the hood its also playing out on the plant floor.
Mercedes EQS quality checks at Factory 56.
The EQS, like the S-Class, is built at
Factory 56, a shiny new $900 million facility thats supposed to be the blueprint for how Mercedes will make cars in the future. Its key feature is flexibility. Some 400 driverless transport systems whizz car parts along routes that can be set remotely, removing the need for a fixed assembly line. The site can be tweaked to make new combustion-engine or battery-powered models within just a few days.
Mercedes parent Daimler has a lot riding on Factory 56. The inventor of the combustion-engine automobile is trying to reinvent how it makes cars as it electrifies its portfolio. The flexible assembly model will be rolled out to wherever Mercedes makes EVs be it at home in Sindelfingen or in the U.S. and China. Over the past century, Mercedes has perfected combustion-engine manufacturing. The question now is, can the company do it again assembling EVs?
The EQS battery pack assembly line at Factory 56.
Germanys carmakers are often criticized for being too slow to change. A bias for stability and knack for tinkering (shrinking gaps in body panels is still among the top goals in Sindelfingen and Wolfsburg) proved ill-suited for a period of rapid transformation. Remember the now-obsolete push by
BMW mimicked less boldly by Volkswagen and
Daimler to make cars using carbon fiber? They poured millions of euros into the material that ultimately proved too costly and cumbersome to work with. Shortly after the carbon-fiber craze started, Tesla introduced the Model S, featuring wireless software updates and a 17-inch touchscreen display. While German auto engineers tinkered with a complex material that didnt really pan out, the California upstart was inventing the iPhone on wheels.
Things have changed.
VW, BMW and Daimler are
stepping up efforts to unseat Tesla as the global leader in electric cars. With a digital dashboard stretching from one side mirror to the other, Mercedes is positioning the EQS as the answer to the Model S that has so far eluded Germanys auto industry.
Bolstered by strong demand for the S-Class and promising initial feedback for the EQS, which can be ordered from mid-June, Mercedes plans to add a
third shift of workers and boost manufacturing capacity for the two models. The carmaker has already succeeded in raising production efficiency of the S-Class by 25% at Factory 56, and it hopes to do something similar with the EQS.
This is our lighthouse factory, said Joerg Burzer, who is responsible for production at Mercedes. We see it as absolutely competitive.
Before You Go
backpedaling on Bitcoin
sank stocks linked to cryptocurrencies around the globe. The Tesla CEO wrote on Twitter that he was worried about the use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions and suspended purchases of the companys vehicles using the asset. Energy usage trend over past few months is insane, he
wrote in an early Thursday post. Crypto enthusiasts are
abuzz about the move, which suddenly puts Musk
at odds with one of his biggest backers, Cathie Wood of Ark Investment Management.
With assistance by Christoph Rauwald