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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 30, 2010 @ 8:23 am

    Paris motor show live: Mercedes marks 125 years since it “invented the car”

    Michael McAleer

    Michael McAleer

    January 29th: mark the date, for Mercedes claims it as the birthday of the automobile as we know it. On that date 125 years ago Carl Benz registered his patent and so the three-pointed star was born. Kudos goes to Guinness, for one suspects the template of Arthur’s Day is being used by the car firm.

    In a rally cry for the impact of the car in modern society, Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche  said “the USP (unique selling point) of the automobile is liberte. Independence. Self-determination. Because a car puts you in control. You’re no longer a passenger in life. That’s why young people can’t wait to get their driver’s licenses, while senior citizens hate the thought of giving theirs away.

    “Consider this: before Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz invented the automobile, the ‘average European’ travelled only 20kms per year. Today it’s at least the same distance per day – and most of it by car. Just ask yourself, what job would you be doing today if all your career options had to be in walking distance to the place you were born?”

    At a pre-show event held in the famous UGC cinema on the Champs Elysee, he referred to the economic impact of the motor industry in Europe. “The auto industry generates more than €370 billion of tax revenues in Europe alone per year. The income of more than 12 million European families depends directly or indirectly on the auto industry.”  

    Looking to the future of the car and electric models in particular he referred to the importance of the premium sector in securing their viability. “The age of e-mobility will come through innovation. And the premium segment, in particular, will fuel it. Why, because you need both the higher disposable income of premium customers and the engineering competence of premium manufacturers to bring [the technology] to market.”

    Mercedes is preparing an electric version of the A-Class with a range of 200km and making its world debut at the show today. But the more immediate news for Irish buyers is that Mercedes is continuing to dramatically cut the emissions levels of its current range. Since the end of last year the average for its fleet is 160g/km and it plans to bring that down to 140g/km by 2012 – a 40 per cent drop since 1995.

    Specific models that will catch the attention of Irish buyers is the new CLS 250 CDI, with emissions of just 134g/km. The same engine is also going into the S-Class, giving it an emissions rating of just 149g/km.

    The fact that two big luxury saloons now fall into tax bands B and C respectively is great news for consumers but must be causing headaches at the Department of Finance, where the speed with which carmakers are reducing emissions is seriously cutting the tax revenue under the current emissions bands set in January 2009. From a Green perspective it can be argued that the tax has been a huge success in pushing down emissions, but from a Revenue point of view it has to hurt and increases the likelihood that an adjustment of the tax bands might be considered in the upcoming budget.

    Alongside the launch of the A-Class E-Cell and the new CLS, Mercedes is also showing a concept version of an estate CLS, that’s due for production in 2013. It’s a very smartly styled car that will prove a hit with continental buyers, who have long preferred estate or wagons to saloons, even in the premium class.

    Paris is being used as the start of a countdown to the 125th anniversary, when Mercedes says it will mark the occasion not just with marketing, but with another patent registration it claims will be as innovative and revolutionary as the one by Gottlieb Daimler in 1886. Mark the date in your diary.

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