Controversial design done right vs done wrong: How Mercedes messed up and BMW didn’t

In a break from Q&A articles, I take a shot a Mercedes design. Don’t take this too seriously

Modern BMW Design, Controversial, to say the least. It started with the likes of the new M4 and M3, which to say the least, was ‘different’. Then came the ix, which looked rather…. polarizing. Not to mention the i7 or XM. But lets crunch the numbers: BMW, since switching to its new design language, has received record sales and successful models*.

*Not all of them

Meanwhile, we have Mercedes, churning out the EQC, EQE AND EQS, which all look the same. They’ve also given us the SUV variants, which weirdly, have the same name as the sedans. They all look like beached whales, and when the don’t, they look like a sad animal. A design language then, arguably more polarizing than BMW’s.

BMW i7

Controversial design is a tough art to master: if done right, it attracts attention to the brand, and even if the general opinion isn’t great, people will buy your car: its in the news. In other words, BMW. Take the i4, big grille, gran coupe design- if you possess eyes, you’ll know its not pretty. But neither is the rival Mercedes, the EQE. Which is recording dismal sales, to say the least. Let me explain, Mercedes makes 2 electric sedans, the EQE and EQS. Which look exactly the same. Look it up, they’re the same, to a punter at least. Undoubtedly, most will mistake your more expensive, posher, EQS for a EQE. People don’t seem to like that, as it turns out.

Let me talk comparisons now, if you will, because the equivalent models in the range, the BMW iX and Mercedes’ EQS SUV are both, tactically speaking, hideous. But here’s the thing, one sells far better than the other one. In fact, its the one with less range and arguably less tech- the BMW. In the US in Q4 of 2024, they sold 5274 of them, a good, solid number. The same however, cannot be said with the Mercedes, with sales totaling at a mere 1903 cars in Q4. On paper, the Mercedes is the far superior car, and yet, perhaps not. I’ll put that down to the looks, because while we all dislike the BMW design direction, its done more for BMW publicity than any interior could do for Mercedes, they’ve done it, forgive me on this, in a appealing way. Think, large electric SUV… what do you think of? not the Mercedes, I don’t think. Probably not the Tesla model X or Kia ev9 either. So you don’t even try to remember the Rivian R1 or Lucid gravity… No. BMW then, may have secretly out smarted us all with perhaps the most successful automotive advertisement in recent terms: design that is memorable.

Mercedes EQS sedan-
BMW i7-
Lucid air sapphire-

Now, interiors: what the punter never sees, but the consumer does. And yet, again, we see the luxury sedans, now with the Lucid air for a good measure. To put it simply, the Mercedes looks like a plastic knock off, and the Lucid looks like a mid-point VW group product. Not a bad thing, but not what you’re looking for either. In other words, we have pair of super market sunglasses with some jewels, a decent pair of extremely high quality, and the BMW, a pair of Ray-bans. Not the most expensive or highest quality, but ultimately the most desirable. It says it all really, given the choice, we’ll all have the BMW in a realistic situation. I don’t want to sound like I’m endorsing BMW here, because I’m not, but I want to get a point across, one that over the past month or two has been getting increasingly clear: BMW in fact, has not lost the plot, but instead, Mercedes might have….

See sales numbers here:

Mercedes EQS- Mercedes-Benz USA

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