Currently reading: Mercedes-Benz hints at uncertain future for estate models
Chief operating officer admits company is also looking at cabriolet and coupe models in face of EV transformation
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3 mins read
7 September 2021

Mercedes-Benz’s chief operating officer, Markus Schäfer, has said that the firm is looking into the future of estate cars and other model niches, as electrification shifts the balance of traditional market sectors.

In an interview at the Munich motor show, Schäfer admitted that with “estate cars, we have to see. This market is under pressure as more and more customers move to SUVs, and there are just a few markets left for estates and station wagons. So we have to see how the volumes are developing. They’re technically absolutely possible – that wouldn’t be a problem – but it’s more a question of how this niche is developing. I know the UK is a great market for station wagons.”

Previously, other sources at Mercedes-Benz have indicated to Autocar that with the rise of increasingly efficient SUVs, especially more aerodynamic electric ones that ride lower than traditional ICE varieties, the estate car market is being squeezed.

Europe is now one of the few places in the global market where touring versions are being bought in big numbers, as China and the US favour their higher-riding cousins.

Schäfer also admitted that Mercedes is looking at the future of coupés and cabriolets: “We have to recognise that the demand for cabriolets is dropping around the world – China is not a roadster-covering market and there are less buyers in Europe who decide on a cabriolet, compared to some years ago. But I think it’s a very attractive product and an emotional product… we will have to think about the coupé as well.”

But Schäfer was open that it’s not an easy task. “It’s not that easy to build a good-looking cabriolet [as an EV], he said. It's an engineering effort - it’s quite a job and a task to keep it in nice proportions and not to lift it too high, with a big battery underneath it. There are some cars out in the market that would not meet our tastes. So we will come up with something better.”

One thing he can’t see Mercedes dropping any time soon is leather. Despite the German firm’s push for sustainability, from the commitment to electrification by 2030 in certain markets to the use of low-carbon steel in its cars, leather is something that will remain in Mercedes. He feels it’s one of the defining characteristics of the cars.

“You have a vegan interior that’s available today, as Artico is available. But we don’t want to give up leather. We’re looking into the way leather is treated, looking into this in depth, and so we know where it’s coming from,” said Schäfer.

One thing in particular Schäfer wants to retain is the steering wheel materials. “I’m struggling with the steering wheel, he said. To be honest, I don’t want a plastic or artificial leather steering wheel. Being frank, that’s the one and only compromise I would not do as leather or wood steering wheels feel much, much better.”

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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class comes with fine engines and a typically laid-back dynamic character. Not one for the interested driver, but a good advert for being disinterested.

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Bimfan 8 September 2021

Would be good if Mercedes stuck to saloons and SUV's. They would be just as sunk as JLR in a few years. Not everyone wants a heavy, boxy, SUV or a big saloon car, even with a premium badge. 

How short-sighted are Mercedes? 

MkVII Golf GTI 8 September 2021

When Tesla switched from leather steering wheels to "vegan leather" a few years ago, nobody noticed the difference except a few like me. The old leather was shinier and had a more slick texture. The new steering wheel is more of a matte finish. They both feel fine. We have two Model 3s, one with leather wheel and once without. If you asked 50 people to pick which was real and which was fake, more than half would have no idea and the other half would likely pick the vinyl wheel as it looks more like leather than the real leather wheel did. 

Mainlysideways 8 September 2021
Like the other comment, I bloody love estate cars, I only got rid of my Saab 9-5 estate because it got too old, would still be in Saabs if GM hadn't murdered them. So I replaced it with an E-Class estate which I use a lot more than my Discovery because it has a longer load bay. I was toying with replacing the E-Class and Discovery with the next Range Rover when they both get too old and if the boot is big enough and JLR can finally screw a car together properly, I just don't like the look of Mercedes 'hatchbacks on stilts' SUVs, I prefer the real deal, a proper 4x4 because I live in the countryside. Also if convertibles are going, I'll have to get rid of the SL, again I was toying with something a bit more sporty like a 911, so thanks Merc for making the decision easy, no more Mercs, but at least I will still have something from Stuttgart... regarding leather and wood steering wheels, is it the 1990's again?!