Mercedes is going to drop the “EQ” branding from the names of their electric cars as early as 2024, citing confusion from customers, as reported by Handelsblatt.
In recent years, Mercedes has branded its electric offerings and concepts with an “EQ” badge, meant to stand for “electric intelligence” in a riff on the concept of “IQ.”
So far, each of Mercedes’ EVs have included the letters “EQ” in their name.
This seems simple enough, but eventually you end up with alphabet soup. In various regions, Mercedes sells or will soon sell an EQA, EQB, EQC, EQE, EQE SUV, EQS, EQS SUV, EQV, and potentially an EQG and EQT.
Most Mercedes models have stuck with a model designation based on size or body type, but EQ models designate themselves based on electric drive. This could lead customers to think that EQ models have something similar in terms of size or body type, when in fact the EQT and EQA have nothing in common except powertrain.
And Mercedes’ gas vehicles don’t use lettering based on powertrain, so why should the electric models do so? It’s not consistent with the rest of Mercedes’ branding.
Especially given the future of the company. Mercedes has already declared death of the internal combustion engine, and after 2025, every new vehicle architecture it introduces will be electric.
The timeline for retiring the EQ brand meshes with this electric-only timeline. Mercedes says that the first non-EQ electric model they introduce will be their next generation of compact cars, which should be on the market in late 2024.
To me, this is a good and overdue move.
As far as I’m concerned, almost every electric model name out there currently is bad or confusing in some way or another. Either they take the same name as a gas model (Niro, Kona), confuse model names with sub-brand names (Ioniq, e-tron), silo electric vehicles into a sub-brand which could be killed off (BMW i), or have long and ridiculous names which are impossible for the consumer to understand at a glance (2023 BMW X5 xDrive45e Sports Activity Vehicle®).
All of these, I think, are an indication of an automaker not taking electric models seriously in some way or another. Gas models don’t get this treatment (ok, so in BMW’s case they do) – they usually get a regular model name, distinct from other models, treated and advertised as its own program by the automaker. Malibu. Corolla. Integra. Expedition. Tucson.
Why can’t we get more electric models like that? One of few models from an incumbent manufacturer that fits this naming convention is the Porsche Taycan. It’s a real car with a real model name treated as something distinct by the company that makes it. Do more of that.
Mercedes doesn’t really use this sort of designation for any of their vehicles, to be fair. They mostly stick with letters and numbers for their gas models as well. But having an “EQ” sub-brand still inspired some skepticism from me after seeing what BMW did with their “i” sub-brand.
BMW was ahead of the curve with EVs, with the Mini E, ActiveE and BMW i3 all released quite early in the game. But then they just… stopped. Nothing was done with the “i” brand for several years, and internally the whole department was de-emphasized. This even ended up leading to former CEO Harald Kruger’s resignation – rumors were, he came in with electrification as a priority, but executives under him came together and refused to cooperate, and he was unable to overpower them.
So this is the worry about companies siloing their EV development into its own department. If they do this, it’s entirely possible for some misguided executive(s) to push to defund that department, as we saw in BMW, and I worry that that’s possible with other companies as well. Ford was hailed for its “Team Edison” strategy, which works well as long as Jim Farley is here to push electrification, but what if a less-electrifying executive comes to the head? Could Edison be killed off?
So really, to me, the best solution is to just stop trying to get clever with EVs and treat them like you would treat any other model program. Take them seriously. Stop messing around. And it looks like Mercedes is doing this, which is good.
Unfortunately this also means that Mercedes will end up selling some EVs that are EQ-branded while selling some EVs that are not EQ-branded during the transition to this new system, which may lead to even more confusion in the meantime – much like Audi’s transition between using e-tron as a model name for their first electric SUV and their current status using e-tron as a designation for all of their electric models. But in the long term, treating EVs like normal models, like they should have done in the first place (*ahem*), will make things much easier on everyone.
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