Daimler to offer electric Mercedes in 2010: report

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Daimler plans to roll out a Mercedes-Benz model that runs on electricity in 2010, its chief executive said in a newspaper interview.

“We plan an electric Smart for 2010 and for the same year a Mercedes (electric) model as well,” Dieter Zetsche told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in comments to be published in the Saturday edition.

Daimler currently has in London a fleet of 100 first-generation Smart cars that run on electricity.

Unlike General Motors Corp, which has promised to launch a Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car in 2010 selling for about $30,000, Zetsche said no decision has been made regarding the price for the electric models.

“That depends on whether we sell the batteries with the car or lease them. The willingness (on the part of consumers) to pay more is limited,” he said, adding that the group is also considering whether to manufacture electric motors itself.

Daimler, which spends about half of its research and development budget on powertrains and CO2 reduction, is also in talks with ex-SAP executive Shai Agassi regarding his plan to create a mass-market infrastructure for electric cars.

Zetsche also said he aimed to bring a small series of fuel cell cars to the market in 2010.

Earlier this week, Honda kicked off production of its FCX Clarity fuel cell sedan, which will be leased in the United States via a special dealership network starting in July and then in autumn in Japan.

Honda targets a volume of 200 cars in the first three years in the two countries combined.

Zetsche, who reaffirmed the Mercedes-Benz operating margin target of 10 percent, said Daimler so far had not been hurt by a drop in used car prices in North America that forced BMW to raise its risk provisions by 236 million euros ($366.5 million) in April.

He also called the talks with BMW to cooperate on components for the next generation of compact models as “good and concrete.”

Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; editing by John Wallace