The wait for an all-electric Mercedes-Benz in the world's No. 2 auto market just got longer.
The German luxury automaker will delay the U.S. launch of its first EV, a compact crossover, by at least a year, Mercedes told dealers Friday.
The U.S. debut of the EQC, which starts at $68,895, including shipping, has been pushed back to 2021. It was expected to arrive at U.S. dealerships in the first quarter of next year.
Mercedes blamed the stateside delay on strong demand for the EQC in Europe.
"In a recent direction from Daimler AG, it is a strategic decision to first support the growing customer demand for the EQC in Europe," the automaker said.
The urgency to meet European demand ratcheted up after the EU Parliament mandated in April a 37.5 percent cut in new-vehicle emissions by 2030. That means the industry must slash emissions levels to roughly 60 grams per kilometer on average — a dramatic reduction — or face steep noncompliance fines.
The delay in the U.S. means Mercedes will have to sit on the sidelines as rivals Tesla, BMW, Audi and Jaguar take the early lead in meeting domestic demand for EVs.
There is a "huge appetite" for EVs in some U.S. states, said Jeff Aiosa, owner of Carriage House of New London, a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Connecticut
"Any delays are a setback that keeps us from being competitive," Aiosa said, "If you're a California dealer, and knowing that over 50 percent of Teslas are sold in California, I would be disappointed."
The EQC is the first of a fleet of 10 EVs the automaker expects to launch by 2022.
Jaguar and Audi launched electric crossovers in the U.S. this year, though both models have struggled to gain traction, in part because of sharply higher pricing. BMW will introduce the iX3, a midsize crossover, as well as the i4 and iNext in 2021; while Tesla will launch a crossover version of its widely popular Model 3 electric sedan, the Model Y, next year.
Mercedes is building the EQC at a plant in Bremen, Germany, where output is slated to double to 200 units per day, thus doubling annual capacity to around 50,000 per year.
The EQC, powered by an 80-kilowatt-hour battery, has about a 280-mile range on a full charge, based on New European Driving Cycle estimates.
Two electric motors generate a combined 402 hp, enabling a 0 to 60 mph sprint in 4.8 seconds. To reduce power consumption, the front electric motor is optimized for efficiency in the low- to medium-load range, while the rear motor adds sportiness.