The BMW i3 was the only fully electric vehicle available in South Africa for a very long time. Since its introduction around 2015, it has gone on to be South Africa’s all time top-selling fully electric vehicle up to now. The BMW i8 also tops the plug-in hybrid charts. Nissan briefly introduced the first generation Leaf, but it wasn’t on the market for very long due to range and battery degradation issues. The lack of an active thermal management system meant that the passively cooled Leaf’s battery was always at risk of accelerated battery degradation issues in hot and sunny South Africa. The Jaguar I Pace was introduced a couple of years ago. BMW then introduced the Mini Cooper SE last year. Porsche joined the cause and unleashed the Taycan last year. BMW is stepping it up another notch and is now bringing the I4, IX, and the IX3!
Interest in electric vehicles is growing in South Africa. The 2021 AutoTrader Mid-Year Car Industry Report says that over 285,000 searches of EVs were conducted in the first 6 months of 2021. This was a significant increase of over 211% compared to the same period last year. Now the other big German automakers appear to be seriously looking at this market. Audi is bringing 6 electric vehicle models to South Africa in Q1 2022. These are Audi e-tron 50, e-tron 55 SUVs, e-tron Sportback 55, e-tron Sportback S, e-tron GT, and the RS e-tron GT. Now Mercedes-Benz is getting in on the action. Mercedes-Benz is bringing the EQA, EQB, EQC, and EQS to South Africa in Q2 of 2022.
The Mercedes brand is loved in this part of the world. Owning a Mercedes-Benz is viewed as a status symbol. Mercedes already has an existing network of partners and dealerships in many countries in Africa. We hope these all-electric models, along with the upcoming EQE, the electric equivalent of the very popular E Class, will also be made available across the other markets on the continent. The introduction of all-electric Mercedes models with a real world range of around 600 km such as the EQS, will go a long way in transforming mobility in an important and very influential market segment on the continent. Here, we are talking about government and VIP fleets.
Some African governments face a lot of criticism for prioritizing purchases of luxury German vehicles for their ministers and other government departments over more critical issues. Their love for these German brands will not go away anytime soon and that probably means that they are not about to stop buying these German luxury vehicles anytime soon! So, if they are going to keep buying these Mercedes-Benz vehicles, they might as well buy fully electric models.
As key policymakers and users of electric vehicles, it may incentivize them to formulate pro-EV policies across the continent to the benefit of their constituents. They will also be jolted into action to install charging stations at government facilities, offices, and other public places, building a charging network that can be opened to the public visiting these facilities. This could also encourage other workers at those facilities, and well as other users, to also buy electric vehicles. Most of these cars in these government fleets are often replaced after 3 or so years, after a certain mileage, or whichever comes first. Some of these vehicles will then find themselves on the used vehicle market after the owners receive their upgrades. This can be a positive thing in this case as the inventory of electric vehicles on the secondhand market will grow. The vehicles will now be available a price point more palatable for another tier of potential buyers.
Hotels, resorts, and their shuttle service providers, including car rental service fleet operators, also usually have a large fleet of Mercedes vehicles. These usually shuttle their guests from airports, to shopping malls, and to their business meetings in this class of luxury vehicles. They can now have the option to upgrade to electric models from Mercedes. These operators will help catalyze the installation of destination chargers at their hotels and at airports to charge the vehicles in between trips.