I had a fascinating pre-Geneva chat with Mario Spitzner, AMG’s marketing and sales boss, last night about the future for AMG in the UK.
He believes that the forthcoming C63 coupe, which is keeping the 6.2 naturally aspirated V8, along with the SLS, rather than the new 5.5-litre twin-turbo, will provide them with a key weapon to take on BMW’s M division on British roads.
Interestingly, the new coupe has a panoramic glass roof as standard, with no hard-top option. The engineers are convinced that there’s no loss in chassis stiffness and only a 10kg weight gain, although we’ll have to wait until we drive it to confirm that.
There’s certainly evidence out there, in the form of the R8 Spyder, Porsche Boxster and ragtop Jag XKR, that the lid isn’t essential for chassis stiffness, but they tend to be exceptions to the rule.
Spitzner’s vision of the brand provides an insight. He’s convinced that the three brand strengths are 1) Engines ("our area of core competency") 2) Individuality ("you can request any interior you want, made to the same standards as any Mercedes") and 3) sound.
It’s 3 that’s interesting. As any hack will tell you, one of the most memorable features of the SLS is the sound of that V8. AMG is determined not to be seen as a green brand - "we’ve got Mercedes for that" - but it will undoubtedly feel the pressure to push its drivetrain technology to further increase fuel ‘efficiency’, a very different word to ‘economy’.
Economy is about spending less money at the service station and the AMG bosses don’t reckon that’s a consideration for the bulk of their customers; efficiency is about supreme engineering, with the useful benefit of spending less time standing on the forecourt filling up and queuing to pay.
That all means that the next five years could see AMG focusing the bulk of its efforts on lower kerb weights - there are colossal efforts across the group to reduce the weight of every component without engineering out safety - and greater engine efficiencies. So despite the production viability of electric hybrids and availability of the high-end technology from the mothership, there’s a feeling at AMG that it may not be something that the customer wants. They could well be right.