Liberté, égalité, e-mobilité – why Mercedes goes electric in France

On Friday we announced some great news: Our smart plant in Hambach, France will also produce a compact electric Mercedes-Benz of our product and technology brand EQ. And even though we’re a German car brand, this decision is based on a great tradition.

Mercedes has a long history in France and in motorsports. In fact, both are closely intertwined: Mercedes was born on a French racetrack. In 1901 the very first Mercedes took part in the legendary Nice Race Week. Ever since then, France has been very close to our heart.

Driver Wilhelm Werner pilots his 35 hp Mercedes to victory in the 392-km Nice – Salon – Nice race.

And I think right now, a great executive summary for the state of the automobile in general is best put in French: Liberté, egalité, e-mobilité.


Let’s start with liberté. I know that’s a big word. But when you look at the social progress enabled by the automobile, you realize that it offers so much more than just a convenient way to get from A to B. The car is a powerful engine of prosperity. It embodies individualism and freedom.


And that brings me to my second point: egalité. Understandably enough, people across the globe demand egalité in terms of “equal access” to auto-mobility. They, too, may have experienced what a U.S. farm wife wrote to Henry Ford as early as 1918:

Your car lifted us out of the mud. It brought joy into our lives. We love every rattle in its bones.

I like that quote – and this pattern of the first 132 years is now repeating itself in emerging markets: The car becomes a “ticket of entry” to personal growth. In many ways, auto-mobility is a means to climb the ladder of social mobility.

However, the World Wildlife Fund has already calculated years ago that if the citizens of these countries owned as many cars as people in Europe or the U.S., we’d theoretically need two planets to provide the necessary resources and handle the resulting emissions.


Now, static projections like that are always questionable because technology is constantly improving. That brings me to my third point regarding the automotive revolution: e-mobilité.

You can’t leave France aside, when telling the story of our electric revolution. 20 years ago, we started an exemplary French-German project with the production of our smart cars in Hambach. And it was there that the first electric smart rolled off the production line more than ten years ago.

And we have many more plans to get even greener that go beyond our products: An initiative we just announced for all our Mercedes plants in Germany, is something we’ve been striving for in Hambach from day one: The entire electricity demand of this plant is obtained from renewable energy sources.  Plus, it was not by chance that we previewed our very first electric Mercedes, the EQC, at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris.

At Paris Motor Show 2016 we presented the Mercedes-Benz Showcar Generation EQ.

Soon, our company will take its long-standing French-German relations to the next level:
For the first time in our more than 100-year old history there will be a Mercedes-Benz made in France – and it will be electric.

Speeding up e-mobility

That’s the latest step in our comprehensive electric strategy: We’re investing a total of ten-billion euros into expanding our e-portfolio. By 2022 we will have more than 10 all-electric models in the market. And we are working toward electrifying the entire Mercedes-Benz product range. Individual mobility is just one part of our effort. We are putting the same energy into electrifying our vans, trucks and buses.

By the way, back in 1901, that very first Mercedes came in first in Nizza. And for us, that serves as a great inspiration to speed up e-mobility.

Merci beaucoup à toute l’équipe de Hambach! Et tout le monde: Vive la révolution!

In 2019 the first EQ models will hit the road

More on that

Dieter Zetsche is Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.