STUTTGART, Germany - DaimlerChrysler has set a price target for its first fuel-cell-powered car - even though its launch is five years away. The car is likely to be a version of the Mercedes-Benz A class.
Ferdinand Panik, head of DaimlerChrysler's fuel-cell group, believes consumers will refuse to pay premium prices for environmentally friendly cars.
'A fuel-cell car should have a competitive price tag,' he said. 'Therefore, we believe it should cost about the same as a similar-sized diesel model.'
In Germany, a diesel-powered A class retails for about 35,000 German marks, or $18,084 at current exchange rates.
Panik said if DaimlerChrysler cannot meet its price target for the fuel-cell car, it will add luxury features such as air conditioning or an in-car refrigerator as standard. 'These features benefit from the application of fuel-cell technology,' which generates electricity, he said.
As part of the integration of the former Daimler-Benz and Chrysler activities, all fuel-cell research and development are now concentrated in Stuttgart.
'Because metropolitan areas benefit most from lower CO2 emissions, the use of fuel-cell technology (in a city car such as) the A class is most likely,' he said. 'The A class is also perfectly suited because of its double-floor platform concept.'
DaimlerChrysler already has previewed an A class-based fuel-cell concept called the NECAR 4 (New Electric Car). It takes advantage of the deep 'sandwich' cavity between the floor of the A class and the bottom of the car to house the fuel-cell equipment. On earlier versions, that equipment was big enough to fill the storage space of a van.
So far, DaimlerChrysler has not set sales targets for its fuel-cell car. Panik and Klaus-Dieter Voehringer, DaimlerChrysler's board member responsible for research and development, said the fuel-cell market will start with a few thousand units in 2004, but will increase to 50,000 or 100,000 a year by the end of that decade.