Automotive News reports that Mercedes has officially made the decision to stop production of the electric B-Class. Production will be phased out within the next few months, according to Mercedes USA spokesman Rob Moran.
This means that, despite big talk from Mercedes about future EV plans, including their recent jump into Formula E, adding battery production to factories, and rumors of future EV models from their new EQ sub-brand, the company will no longer produce any battery-electric model for the time being.
The B-class EV was originally a collaboration between Mercedes and Tesla. Mercedes, who used to be a big investor in Tesla but has since sold their stake, used a Tesla drive system to power the car. The model did have some problems, including a large recall due to problems with the Tesla drive system, which could have been solved through an over-the-air software update – if the car were capable of it like Tesla’s own vehicles.
But the main problem with B-Class EV sales is that Mercedes never really tried very hard to sell it. In the same way many manufacturers handle their electric models, the B-Class was treated as a “compliance car” by Mercedes. It was originally only offered in states with ZEV mandates, as a way to offset Mercedes’ more polluting offerings. And Mercedes sold very few of the electric model – reportedly only 3,651 since December 2013. These were valuable sales for the company given the necessity of attaining ZEV credits so they can continue their business of selling gas-powered cars, but it is apparent they spent very little effort on it.
Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company, also used to use Tesla drive systems in the second-generation smart ED. There have been three generations of electric smart cars, with a fourth due very soon. Daimler has even stated that in North America, the entire smart brand will go all-electric later this year.
But as of now, there is no current electric smart model being sold. Which means that Daimler as a whole has no current electric model. They have a lot of talk about future models (which, to be fair, seems relatively credible at least compared to my impressions of the efforts of their countrymen), and a small graveyard of former attempts.
Personally, I actually tried to test drive, with possible intent to purchase, a B-Class EV about a year and a half ago – not long after the recall was announced. At my local dealership, which happens to be the largest Mercedes dealership in the world and is in California, the land of electric cars, they had no B-Class EVs available for test drives and could not say when I would be able to drive one, as all of them were being updated for the recall. The salesman then suggested that I try looking into a diesel model instead. And in a rare move for a car dealership, I never got a call back from them about electric models coming into stock. So there’s a tip for everyone – if you don’t want a dealership to call you back, just tell them you’re looking to buy an EV.
I’ve also seen B-Class EVs in person at electric car events like National Drive Electric Week, and while at least the car was there, there were no Mercedes personnel in attendance to talk about it, to offer test drives or rides, or to even open the vehicle and let people sit in it – merely a few brochures under the windshield wipers. While this is only my personal experience, it certainly seems to paint a picture that the company was not particularly serious about selling this car.