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LA Motor Show: AMG is planning a hybrid
Just because the headline Merc at the LA Auto Show is the brutal SLS Black Series, it doesn’t mean that Mercedes and AMG have totally forsaken the environment. Because during an exclusive chat with TopGear.com, Ola Källenius, chairman of AMG, confirmed that AMG is planning a full-on hybrid.
He wouldn’t be drawn on which car will get the hybrid treatment, but it will be here within the next five years. And it will use all the know-how that AMG has gained from building the slightly more attention-grabbing - and fully-electric - SLS Electric Drive. Stuff like the clever F1 tech in the batteries, or the way that the gullwing project managed to reduce the weight of the electric motors - all vital in the electric SLS due next year, and just as essential in the hybrid AMG.
Building the er… slightly-less eco-friendly SLS Black has also taught AMG lessons that will be useful for a hybrid. Carbonfibre is the common theme here: the Black uses the high tech material as a structural part for the first time - the torque tube housing the prop shaft is made of carbonfibre. And in the hybrid, the car’s ‘backbone’ will be made of carbon, with the aluminium spaceframe body bolted to it. Tobias Moers, head of vehicle development at AMG, told us AMG will never build a full carbonfibre car, but the lightweight material is going to be an increasingly important part of all AMGs. The firm is even looking into using basalt in the weave. Yep, that’s right, basalt, as in the mineral. Never thought we’d see actual rocks in cars - and prepare yourselves for plenty of Flintstone gags.
But back to the present. AMG might be aiming for 30,000 cars a year, but the SLS Black won’t help significantly to reach that target. AMG only wants to build 400 cars in total, and Källenius won’t shift from that figure: “We could do more and we’ve been inundated with requests, but we need to stick to the limit.” When you think that the Black will probably cost somewhere in the region of £250,000, that’s counts as impressive self-control - it must be tempting for Källenius to ramp up production to easily boost his bottom line.
And despite the stated aim to increase AMG sales, it’s unlikely we’ll see huge numbers of Black Series models. “It’s a no brainer for the SLS, but there can’t be any Black Series inflation. It needs to be limited volume and models.”
Words: Piers Ward