Merc courts brand character loss with new EQS BEV
As potentially exciting as any new model can be to a renowned marque, such as Mercedes-Benz, writes Iain Robertson, unless its marketing message is all-encompassing and glitch-free, it runs a risk of failing at the first hurdle, the retail environment, and the last thing Merc needs is an albatross-like Ford around its neck.
Remove the ‘Three-Pointed-Star’ badges from the pictured full-size, seven-seat SUV and determine what is parked in front of your peepers. It could be anything from Toyota, Hyundai, or even Renault…but, no, it’s a Mercedes-Benz. To me, that is a major problem. Throughout its existence as notionally the oldest carmaker in the world (a fact disputed with Skoda), Merc has always been recognisable through its era-changing radiator grille outline. Of course, in our brave new world of electric vehicles, while cooling issues remain to ensure that battery packs do not overheat and self-combust, the 900-degrees underbonnet temperatures experienced by fossil-fueled cars are no longer extant.
Of course, when car stylists are gifted a design freedom, lo and behold they will exploit it. Yet, perhaps in the case of the Merc EQS, the boss was in the cafeteria, while the front grille area was being shaped by his minions, little aware that his cafe latte was taking a few minutes longer to cool and consume. By the time he returned, the task was completed and, while we are uncertain about whether a lot of wrist-slapping took place, or not, perhaps it should have done, because the resultant near-anodyne shape is as non-Merc as it gets and, hey presto, a brand sinks.
While BMW’s uglification of its once sacrosanct ‘Double Kidney’ grilles has occurred, at least they are mildly reminiscent of what came before, despite the radical restyle. Check out Audi and its stoical support of the ‘Four Rings’ is as potent as ever. However, when a new Merc looks like a Lexus fore and aft, it is perpetrating a desertion of brand duty, a treason that should be a sackable offence. In a few automatic car washes’ time, when the retaining clips for the corporate logo work loose, the EQS becomes another brand altogether.
It is worth highlighting that, much like model nomenclature, electrification is effecting a surprising amount of neutrality across the entire world motor industry. There are some truly oddball brand names popping up hither and thither, most of which are eminently forgettable, even though they are emerging from established manufacturing players, while nightmare combinations of letters and numbers are proliferating within the keystone brands, adding further consumer confusion and making potential buyers ask the various brand representatives about the ‘Golf-sized EV’, or the ‘Jeep-shaped eSUV’ but not receiving the responses they hoped for. We know from despatches that Merc is not alone in concentrating its future in battery-electrics, as it is part of a consortium working on the total greening of petrol and diesel; both BMW and Audi are also ring-fencing their future options wisely. So, what happens to brand familiarity? Well, it does appear to be chucked out of the window like baby’s bathwater.
Merc is also not alone in making us adapt to kW, rather than bhp, when mentioning power outputs. While there existed a correlation between coinage and paper notes, when our nation shifted from Sterling to decimal currency in the early-1970s, none exists with power consumption and no attempt is made to translate it…although the consumer concerned can ‘google’ a conversion-ish. Thank the good Lord that avoirdupois remained to run alongside metric weights and measures around the same time and that ‘Heath the Teeth’ did not succeed fully in his much desired Europeanisation of the left-lane driving UK.
To be frank, I gave up years ago trying to remember each and every acronym forged arrogantly by Merc for every new model it launched. Even during media events, Merc staff would assume that we could recall all of them, when so few of the motoring media were able, let alone bothered to do so. If you want to comprehend the awkwardness, peel open a Merc Owner’s Manual and turn to the glossary pages, where each of them is explained in Technicolor detail. I can understand RADAR, FORD and PONTIAC, beyond which the balance loses me. Yet, the press material for the Hyundai EQS is peppered with initials, to which it is intensely amusing to assign completely fabricated roles.
Anyway, the EQS features a mostly messy interior, which has more folding elements than seem realistic let alone essential to promoting cabin flexibility. The new dashboard layout seems to have ditched the iPhone screen spread in favour of a single pane of curved ‘glazing’, behind which sit the main dials for the driver’s attention, the customary centre console stack of swipeable heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls, with master stereo and on-board computer functionality. The third screen ahead of the front passenger offers a ‘no conflict’ telly feed for entertainment as well as information purposes, all of which are configurable to meet users’ requirements. The rearmost row of seats is a bit cramped but neatly trimmed in high-end materials commensurate with the EQS’s sky-high, premium price tag and the rearmost seats can be folded forwards to release around 500-lumpy-litres of boot space.
Promising an electric range of around 350mls and an 10-80% recharge rate of just 31mins at a rapid charger, places the Merc EQS in the upper echelons of reduced range anxiety but its (unconfirmed) price tag of around £100,000 is a hefty one to settle for such an anonymous SUV, even though Merc-philes will be certain to flock to its doors.