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Mercedes-Benz backs off plan to only sell EVs by 2030

Mercedes-Benz is backing off its plan to only sell electric vehicles after 2030, the company said Thursday. It was the latest evidence that the global auto industry is feeling more dour about the all-electric future after a slowdown in sales growth.

It was only three years ago that Mercedes was feeling quite bullish about plug-in powertrains, saying that by 2030 it would only sell EVs. At the time, the company said it would completely phase out gas-powered vehicles, while including the caveat “where markets allowed.”

Now it seems that the market is not allowing Mercedes to follow through on its plans. Today, the company said in its fourth quarter earnings statement that it only expects 50 percent of its sales to be all-electric — a significant drop from the once rosier outlook. Gas and hybrid vehicles will remain a part of the company’s future for years to come.

“Customers and market conditions will set the pace of the transformation,” Mercedes said in its report. “The company plans to be in a position to cater to different customer needs, whether it’s an all-electric drivetrain or an electrified combustion engine, until well into the 2030s.”

Not even in Europe, where EV sales growth outpaces North America’s, does Mercedes expect to transition to EV-only sales anytime soon, the company’s CEO Ola Källenius told Reuters. “It’s not going to be 100% in 2030, obviously... from the whole European market, but probably from the Mercedes side as well,” he said.

His comments are the latest from an auto executive to express more caution about the EV future. Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned that the company is bracing for significantly slower sales growth in 2024, while EV-only companies like Rivian and Lucid said they expect production to stay flat this year. Other companies, like GM and Ford, have delayed factory construction or canceled models.

EV sales hit nearly 8 percent of the total number in the US last year, while in Europe they represented 13 percent. Sales are still growing, but customers are becoming more discerning about price, while expressing concern about charging time and reliability.

Meanwhile, hybrid sales have increased significantly, as more people see the benefit of hedging their bets while the charging infrastructure gets built out.