At the IAA Mobility motor show in Munich, Germany, two auto giants, BMW and Mercedes, recently unveiled their latest electric concept cars and new platforms for their future battery-powered vehicles. This move comes as a response to the increasing competition from Chinese players and the need to catch up with the dominant force in the electric car market, Tesla. In an effort to establish themselves as major players in the electric era, European carmakers are striving to demonstrate their readiness and capabilities.
Mercedes-Benz introduced its Concept CLA Class, an electric vehicle built on a new architecture that will serve as the foundation for future battery cars from the renowned German auto brand. This concept car boasts an impressive range of 750 kilometers (466 miles) and can reach a range of 400 kilometers with only 15 minutes of charging. Ola Kallenius, the CEO of Mercedes, spoke highly of the vehicle, labeling it a “revolutionary development” for the company. He emphasized its unmatched efficiency, range, and fast-charging capabilities, claiming that no other vehicle in its class can match its performance.
Not one to be outdone, BMW presented its own electric concept car called the “Vision Neue Klasse.” This vehicle showcases BMW’s commitment to electric innovation and is based on the company’s new architecture for EVs. The first batch of cars based on this platform is set to begin production in 2025. BMW CEO Oliver Zipse expressed his enthusiasm for the future, stating that these cars will mark the beginning of a new era of sustainability and innovation for the company. Zipse also revealed that BMW plans to double its EV sales this year, with a goal of having 15% of its global sales comprised of battery EVs by the end of 2023.
The dedicated EV platforms introduced by Mercedes and BMW signify a departure from their previous approach of adapting combustion engine or hybrid models. These new platforms represent the auto giants’ concerted effort to make a significant push into the electric vehicle market. While this move is a substantial step for European OEMs, analysts believe that it may still leave them slightly behind Tesla. The new platforms are expected to close a significant portion of the gap between the European manufacturers and Tesla, as well as the Chinese players. However, they may not close the gap entirely.
Currently, Tesla holds the largest share of the global EV market, accounting for 20% of sales in the second quarter. Chinese company BYD follows closely behind with a 15% market share, according to Counterpoint Research. Tesla’s aggressive price cuts, aimed at garnering a larger market share, have triggered an intense price war, intensifying competition in the EV market. Both Mercedes and BMW operate in the premium segment where they compete with Tesla’s popular models like the Model S and Model X. As they prepare to introduce more EVs in the coming years, Mercedes remains focused on delivering value over volume.
Volkswagen, on the other hand, has adopted a different strategy to capture different segments of the market. The company plans to release eleven new all-electric models by 2027, highlighting its commitment to electric vehicles. In 2026, Volkswagen intends to launch the ID.2all, an electric vehicle with a price below €25,000 ($26,942). By offering cars at various price points, Volkswagen aims to appeal to a wider range of consumers. At the IAA show, Volkswagen showcased the ID. GTI Concept electric vehicle, which is expected to hit the roads in 2027.
In the era of electric cars, it is not just design or engine performance that will win over consumers. Technology is playing an increasingly crucial role. Counterpoint Research emphasizes that premium EVs must resemble smartphones rather than traditional cars to provide a similar user experience to that of Tesla, which has set the gold standard in the EV market. Tesla’s vertically integrated platform, along with its advanced software and hardware integration, has significantly contributed to its success. Chinese automakers like Xpeng and Nio also emphasize their semi-autonomous driving features to attract consumers.
At the IAA conference, traditional automakers are striving to showcase their technological capabilities and compete with Tesla and Chinese start-ups. BMW’s Vision Neue Klasse EV, for instance, boasts a heads-up display that projects information on the driver’s windscreen. BMW CEO Zipse highlights the company’s “largest investment” in the digital side of the car, including cutting-edge semiconductors. The goal is to create a fully digital driving experience. Traditional automakers understand the need to catch up in terms of technology and aim to bridge the gap with innovative features and seamless integration.
BMW and Mercedes are taking significant steps towards becoming major players in the electric vehicle market. Their latest electric concept cars and dedicated EV platforms demonstrate their commitment to innovation and sustainability. While they may still have some catching up to do in comparison to Tesla, the European OEMs are showing significant progress. As the competition intensifies, technology will play a pivotal role in determining the success of electric car manufacturers. The race is on to provide cutting-edge features and an alluring user experience that can rival the dominance of Tesla, as well as Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers.