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Mercedes-Benz taking a ‘holistic approach’ to adopting EVs, charging for customers: USA CEO

Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Dimitris Psillakis speaks with Yahoo Finance's Seana Smith and Pras Subramanian about the company's 2022 sales, its fourth-quarter results, the state of the EV market, its upcoming charging network, and more.

Video transcript


SEANA SMITH: More Americans are buying electric vehicles nearly 6% of all vehicles sold in the US in 2022 were EVs. That's according to Motor Intelligence, compared to just about 3% last year in 2021. Automaker Mercedes-Benz reporting EV sales were a huge part of its 21% overall growth in Q4 and over the whole year for all vehicles.


Mercedes sold 6 and 1/2% more cars than they did in 2021. Yahoo Finance's Pras Subramanian joining us now. And we also want to bring in Dimitris Psillakis, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA. Great to see you both.

Dimitris, let's talk about the numbers that you put up in 2022, which was a pretty challenging year for the auto industry, certainly growth in what we saw over 2021. What drove that? And what are you seeing so far in 2023?

DIMITRIS PSILLAKIS: I would say 2022 was a good year for us. And that was based on the product portfolio that we brought up, plus, the fact that we had a good support from the supply chain. So, all in all, you added 6 and 1/2% growth compared to 2021. Key success for that was our electric vehicle range. We had four models that launched in 2022, two of them coming very late in the quarter four, but they supported in our sales growth.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: Hey Dimitris, Pras here. So you note that the EQ sales are doing well in Q4. Also, you said that the top end, the higher trim level cars really powering sales from Mercedes last year. What is the luxury buyer telling you at this point? Are you still seeing that momentum in 2023?

DIMITRIS PSILLAKIS: I think the year started pretty well with high demand on our top end vehicles-- so our AMG products, our S-class, our SL, which is new in the market, was launched only in summer of 2022, plus our electric vehicles. And talk again about mostly top end like the EQS SUV, which was launched in November, the US sedan. So these are products which are on high demand. And we see that the start of '23, it was good to have a back order for these products.

Of course, it's hard to say how the year will end. But we very strong believe on our total product range. To add to that, there are new products coming also in 2023 which will help keep the demands on a high level.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: So Dimitris, what are those new products you're most excited about? Is it the EQE electric SUVs, the EQB, the smaller electric SUV that I actually had a chance to drive recently?

DIMITRIS PSILLAKIS: Pras, you've got it. I think starting with the EQB, which is our entry model to the electric vehicle range and the top end of the electric vehicle range is the EQS SUV and sedan. We are launching the EQE SUV in spring this year. And this is the second product that we have in the market, which is produced in the US in our factory in Tuscaloosa.

So all in all, as of, let's say, April this year, we'll have three SUVs in the market electric. You have two sedans. So pretty wide portfolio, I would say, which so far has received very high, very good comments from the media and from our customers.

SEANA SMITH: Dimitris, well, we have certainly seen more people, more buyers interested in EVs. I think many remain on the sidelines. From your perspective, what do you think is necessary? What's that catalyst that's needed for more widespread adoption?

DIMITRIS PSILLAKIS: I would say there is lots of demand and lots of interest on electric vehicles. What we need to support to get the customers into electric is infrastructure, right? And I think that there's investments which are taking place.

Also announced a couple of weeks back in CES that we'll develop our branded charging network first in the US. We have announced that 2,500 charging stations in the US. So the total, the holistic approach for electric vehicle and giving the customer the convenience of driving a clean car, at the same time being able to charge his vehicle, is what we are hoping for.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: So Dimitris, I want to follow on the-- on that question, on-- you mentioned the CES, you guys announced that charging network. Is that because you guys are seeing customer frustration with how charging stations are operating right now? There's too little chargers. Some of them don't work. Not enough speed in terms of power. Is that why you're starting your own bespoke network of chargers?

DIMITRIS PSILLAKIS: Exactly. The customer is looking for convenience. And still there are worries, I buy an electric and if I need to travel from point A or city A to city B, will they still make it? So our vehicles should have extended range.

We talked about our vehicles have 350 miles of range. But by building our own network, we can offer this convenience. The vehicles are connected to these stations. Customers can plan their travels.

They can book, they can reserve the space on the charging station. They can plug the car in and it will offer them also convenience of spending the time are waiting for the vehicle to charge in a nice secure place. So it's customer convenience. It's taking away, what you said, the frustration, the worry of charging the car.

PRAS SUBRAMANIAN: So Dimitris, I'm actually at the DC Auto Show public policy to hear a lot of government types walking around talking about that IRA and the tax credits and various loopholes like the lease provision, the commercial lease provision, that I believe-- and correct me if I'm wrong. Is Mercedes going to take advantage of that to allow IRA tax credits for cars that are made outside the US and also outside of the bounds of the battery requirements and sourcing?

DIMITRIS PSILLAKIS: So at the moment, the vehicles, electric vehicles are eligible to the credits as far as they're electric. And, obviously, we're taking on, using that for vehicles which are commercially leased. But this is not a big volume.

That's not the majority of the vehicles. And for the others, for the vehicles which do not fall into leasing, obviously, the benefit is not there. We are waiting and looking forward to the clarifications of how IRA will be applied to local manufacturing, to materials and all that stuff to adjust our forward policies.

SEANA SMITH: Dimitris Psillakis, is president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, thanks so much for joining us here at Yahoo Finance.