Under its 48-year-old design chief Gorden Wagener, Mercedes-Benz has become increasingly adept at walking the line of pushing the brand into the future without alienating buyers. In the process, it has enjoyed a sales renaissance, for which CEO Dieter Zetsche gives Wagener major credit. And it has created a visual identity far from the spiky, sharp-angled designs of some luxury competitors.
At this fall's Paris auto show, Mercedes-Benz gave the public its first look at the EQ subbrand, scheduled to debut in 2020 and ultimately to include 10 electric-drive vehicles. The Generation EQ concept vehicle was a smooth-surfaced, futuristic take on the electric vehicle -- notably modern, but not jarring.
Wagener, who took charge of design in 2008, calls the style "sensual purity." Key vehicles have included the S-class coupe and GLC crossover and the E class, which was shown at the 2016 Detroit auto show. Standout concepts include the Concept IAA from the 2015 Frankfurt auto show and Vision Tokyo, an autonomous vehicle with swivel chairs and an interior lounge.
That concept teases Wagener's next challenge: Understanding how autonomy and connectivity will alter vehicle interiors. In a September interview with Automotive News Europe, Wagener said: "The digital world will change the interior more in the next 10 to 15 years than it did in the last 50."