Philipp Schiemer is the new boss of Mercedes-AMG, and he has potentially one of the most unenviable jobs in the performance car world: Take a brand famous for its earth-shatteringly raw combustion engines and replace them with silent electric ones.
Yes, folks, it’s 2021, and all your performance-car heroes are dead. Or at least with one foot in the grave. AMG will at first go hybrid—witness the next C63’s four-cylinder turbo hybrid—before going fully electric. And it’s here that the soul-searching begins.
For what is AMG without a massive, shouty V8? Schiemer concedes this will be a difficult challenge: “Part of the success of AMG is the noise and emotions you get from the engine sound. We will work on our own brand sound in the electric age, but we don’t want to copy the V8 sound—it will be a different sound.
“Some of our customers of today do not like it because they will miss what they have today. But we have to recognize there are also new customers coming, who will love this new sound.”
A sound like what, exactly? “It will be familiar from science-fiction films,” Schiemer said. “A profound sound, but different from today’s sound.”
The two other areas, of course, are actual outright performance and driveability, the latter less of a concern thanks to quantum leaps in software that’s been keeping AMGs in straight (or sideways) lines for years.
Batteries and range, however, continue to be an issue. “In a [combustion] performance car, you can accelerate and decelerate as often as you like,” he said. “With electric, we know that if you accelerate too much, the power is derating. It’s losing power. We are working on technology where we can have this ‘always on’ mentality.”
Could he consider lowering future electric AMG power outputs, to run smaller batteries, and consequently lower the car’s overall weight? Again, he speaks to range. “The power is not the problem,” he said, as any self-respecting AMG boss should say. “The problem is range. In the future, this behavior will change and we can work with smaller batteries. Because the battery is the main driver for weight.
“And here’s the secret. We are working on our e-performance hybrids with a small battery—currently just 80kg in weight—with the advantage that we have a lot of power, but the disadvantage of a range as not normal for a hybrid.
“But I think in the future when people experience an electric car, and maybe have their own charging station at home, they will accept lower range as a price for better performance.”
Future AMG customers will also have to quite literally accept a lower range because Schiemer told Top Gear how there might be less of them. “First of all, AMG has reached really impressive growth with lots of products. I think in the future, we will not increase the portfolio, but rather it will decrease a little bit.
“A little streamlining in some areas, because we have to focus a little bit more. And that focus is on our high-end vehicles. Here we will really continue—I cannot guarantee in every segment, but this will be our highest priority to offer high-end vehicles.
“On the entry versions, we will reduce them a bit,” he added. He wouldn’t be pushed on which models are untouchable and which are more likely for the chop, but then we’re a long way off that just yet…
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.