Mercedes unveils an electric version of its S-Class that goes farther than a Tesla.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled an electric counterpart to its top-of-the-line S-Class sedan on Thursday, the latest in a series of moves by German automakers to defend their dominance of the high end of the car market against Tesla.

The EQS, which will be available in the United States in August, is the first of four electric vehicles Mercedes will introduce this year, including two S.U.V.s that will be made at the company’s factory in Alabama and a lower-priced sedan. Mercedes did not announce a price for the EQS, but it is unlikely to be lower than the S-Class, which starts at $94,000 in the United States.

The cars could be decisive for Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes, as it tries to adapt to new technology.

“It is important to us,” Ola Källenius, the chief executive of Daimler, said of the EQS during an interview. “In a way it is kind of day one of a new era.”

Kelley Blue Book.

The EQS owes its stamina to advances in battery technology and an exceptionally aerodynamic design, Mr. Källenius said. Some analysts question whether Mercedes can sell enough electric vehicles to justify the cost of development, but Mr. Källenius said, “We will make money with the EQS from the word ‘go.’”

The EQS is the latest attempt by German carmakers to show that they can apply their expertise in engineering and production efficiency to battery-powered cars. Vehicles are Germany’s biggest export, so the carmakers’ success or failure will have a significant impact on the country’s prosperity.

On Wednesday, Audi, the luxury unit of Volkswagen, unveiled the Q4 E-Tron, an electric SUV. The Q4 shares many components with the Volkswagen ID.4, an electric SUV that the company began delivering to customers in the United States in March. Though priced to compete with internal combustion models, neither vehicle offers as much range as comparable Tesla cars.

In the S-Class tradition, the EQS offers over-the-top luxury features like software that can recognize when a driver might be feeling fatigued and can offer to turn on the massage function embedded in the seat.

“You’re going to get S-Class level refinement in a very, very high performing electric car,” Mr. Källenius said. “That’s your buying argument.”

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Hot Hatchbacks: Party in the Front, Business in the Back

Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. The hottest of the hot? For sure, if one factors in the AMG-specific engine, which puts out a neck-bending 382 horsepower in such a small crossover. The GLA 45, part of the newly redesigned GLA range, will churn to 60 miles per hour in just over four seconds; don’t mind the industrial rasp of the engine, or the jarring ride.

Volkswagen ID.4. In the electric realm, an early candidate (and one of the very few) for spunky C.U.V. is the Tiguan-size ID.4, which is based on the platform of the ID.3 hatch already introduced in Europe. With its rather generic looks, one won’t mistake this $40,000 vehicle for a sports car, although its specs are fundamentally impressive, with 201 horsepower and an estimated range of 250 miles.

BMW X2 M Mesh. The compact X2 was introduced a couple of years ago to add some sass to a platform that supports the X1 as well as a couple of Mini models. The bodywork is sleeker than the X1 and doesn’t reduce cargo and passenger space by very much. Now the German brand is offering a dressier version of the 2, the M Mesh edition, on the front- or all-wheel-drive models. There’s little to gussy up the performance of the truck, but poseurs might embrace the exclusive grille, the 19-inch wheels and the sport steering wheel.

Toyota C-HR. It falls into the attractive/unattractive conundrum, depending on one’s taste. The interior is plain and functional, the touch screen is underwhelming, and the amenities are limited. The C-HR rides surprisingly well at moderate speeds on smooth roads, but it bucks and shakes in my Queens neighborhood. Needs more work to turn up the hot-hatch heat.

Honda HR-V. Looks swift but, like the Toyota, lacks power. Surprisingly, Honda is without a hot-hatch entry, unless you count the Civic Type R, which is essentially a track car. Perhaps the HR-V will develop some chops, especially now that the clever Fit hatchback has been axed in the United States.

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From the Charred Wreck of a Lamborghini, a D.I.Y. Supercar

PORTLAND, Ore. — Under the rear hood of Chris Steinbacher’s Lamborghini Huracán sits a Chevy engine. Sure, it’s a twin turbo, and, yes, it pumps a menacing 900 horsepower to the wheels, but the pedigree is Detroit, not Italy. And the rest of the car was basically put together in Portland.

Lamborghini purists may want to cover their eyes now.

The left-for-dead Lambo is one of Mr. Steinbacher’s salvaged supercars. He bought it — what was left of it, anyway, after a fire burned it nearly in two — for $40,000, and it was delivered via forklift. (A new Huracán can approach $300,000, and Mr. Steinbacher’s now-tricked-out 2016 model hovers in that same stratosphere.) Parts for this resurrection cost about $50,000, a discounted total that he kept down with the help of sponsors on his YouTube channel, B Is for Build, which has close to 1.5 million subscribers.

Flooded Ferraris and mangled McLarens are easily found on auction sites like Copart and Impact Auto Auctions. Most people playing in this realm work strictly with cash, Mr. Steinbacher said, although financing can sometimes be arranged. What happens after your wreck rolls off the delivery trailer is far more complicated, but with more money and dedication, a dream car may be within reach.

supercars at a small fraction of the used market price, Mr. Steinbacher was “kind of hooked,” he said. He started to buy totaled cars and fixed them up in his backyard.

Fixing cracked-up cars isn’t easy “unless you’re one hell of a gambler,” Mr. Steinbacher said. “The hunting part isn’t hard — anyone can Google around and find salvaged-car auction sites and find supercars on there.” Most times the car will require a shipment, however, and you might not see it in person, let alone get a test drive.

“You’ve got six to 10 pictures to try and assess the extent of the damage and how much it’s going to cost to fix,” he said.

This is a skill that can take years and many mistakes to master. “Eventually I turned a camera on to track my progress,” he said, “and started posting it on YouTube.”

Rich Rebuilds. A computer science major in college, Mr. Benoit “kept working my way up to Teslas, Audis and now the BMW i8,” he said.

“Supercar is a funny word,” Mr. Benoit added. “I’ve built many high-end cars, like Teslas, Audi RS7s, but the i8 is my first ‘supercar’ per se.” All have been built in his family’s garage. His personal favorite retrofit? Swapping a V-8 engine into a Tesla.

Tommy’s Window Tinting.

Specialty Equipment Market Association show, known widely as SEMA.

LS Chevy V-8 engine and transmission swap, twin turbos and a custom carbon-fiber body rounded out his one-of-a-kind Lambo.

To Mr. Steinbacher’s knowledge, no one had fashioned a manual-transmission Huracán before. Much less one that once looked as if it had hung over a campfire like a singed marshmallow.

His next vision is to take a donated 2016 Huracán chassis and build it into a full-blown Mint 400 off-road racecar, “turning it into a purpose-built endurance desert racer,” he said.

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Why Biden’s China Policy Faces an Obstacle in Germany

TAICANG, China — German and Chinese flags flutter along tree-lined avenues. Workers are erecting a shopping-and-hotel project with the half-timbered style of architecture more typically found in places like Bavaria or the Black Forest. A nearby restaurant serves Thuringia grilled sausages, fried pork sausages and lots of sauerkraut.

And in Erwin Gerber’s bakery nearby in Taicang, an industrial city a little more than an hour’s drive northwest of Shanghai, hungry customers can buy a loaf of country sourdough bread or a pretzel baked the way they are made in Baden-Württemberg.

“Everything you find in Germany,” Mr. Gerber said, “you will find in my bakery.”

Taicang epitomizes the deep ties between the world’s second- and fourth-largest economies. The Chinese city is so tightly knit with Germany’s industrial machine that some people call it “Little Swabia,” after the German region that the owners of many of its factories call home.

an initial European Union investment protection deal with China, despite objections from the incoming Biden administration. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has defended the agreement as necessary to help European companies make further gains in China. She signaled in January that she does not want Germany to take sides in a new Cold War, telling the World Economic Forum, “I’m not in favor of the formation of blocs.”

Her stance could have broad sway throughout Europe, given Germany’s position as its largest economy. “It’s a swing state in terms of influence,” said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia Europe Asia Studies in Brussels.

Germany will be under growing pressure in the months ahead to pick a side. The deal with China still requires approval from the European Parliament, where many are hostile to it.

crackdown on the democracy movement in Hong Kong and its detention of as many as a million members of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, in China’s far west.

“We are not happy about vague promises made in regard to the brutal suppression of the minorities,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, a member of the European Parliament who is the Green Party’s spokesman on foreign policy issues.

recent study by the Bertelsmann Foundation warned, China will no longer need them.

“It won’t be a win-win situation anymore,” said Ulrich Ackermann, director of foreign markets for the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, known by its German initials, V.D.M.A., which financed the study by the foundation.

Most of the German companies in Taicang are small and midsize manufacturers that make niche industrial products, or the “Mittelstand” companies that underpin the German economy.

Germany’s first roots in Taicang were planted in 1985, when Hans-Jochem Steim, the managing director of a German manufacturer of wire springs, went looking for a place to build a factory. Taicang, little more than a collection of villages then, was a short drive north from Shanghai’s only commercial airport at the time and had a small-town atmosphere that reminded him of the company’s hometown, Schramberg in Swabia.

Kern-Liebers, Mr. Steim’s manufacturer, was the first of what turned out to be over 350 German companies that set up operations in Taicang, drawn by cheap real estate, a nearby airport and cooperative local officials. Mr. Steim encouraged his longtime suppliers to follow him.

“The first 20 German investors were more or less his friends,” said Richard Zhang, the chief executive of Kern-Liebers’s China operations.

Among those early investors was TOX Pressotechnik, which makes machines that join pieces of metal and are used to construct car roofs, chassis and other components. While big companies tended to set up in major population centers, “as a small company, you went to Taicang,” said Susanne Eberhardt, a member of the family that owns the company, which is based in Weingarten in southern Germany.

Chinese employees hired by TOX meshed well with the Germans. “The Chinese people exuded energy and optimism,” Ms. Eberhardt said. “You could feel that China was on the verge of a breakthrough, and they were unbelievably proud to be part of it.”

The Germans taught local managers so well that, these days, Taicang has everything German except a large number of Germans themselves. The vast majority of the customers at Mr. Gerber’s bakery are Chinese. The few expatriates tend to live in Shanghai, which has a German-language school for their children.

German companies in Taicang were usually not big enough to attract a lot of attention from the central government. Several said they did not feel pressure to share technology and trade secrets, a common complaint by larger foreign investors.

“If you don’t touch politically sensitive issues, it’s a very friendly environment,” said Matthias Müller, the managing director of the German Center for Industry and Trade in Taicang.

German investors helped transform Taicang into a city with almost one million people. Workers who once rode bicycles now drive cars.

In 2004, when Klaus Gerlach was setting up operations for Krones, a German maker of machinery for the food and beverage industry, “we had one car in the parking lot, and it was mine,” he said. “Today, the parking lot is full of cars.”

The downside of that growth is that Taicang, like factory towns all over China, is suffering from a shortage of blue-collar labor. Workers tend to job hop frequently unless they receive pay raises and other benefits.

Kern-Liebers has set 5,000 renminbi, or $775, as the monthly pay for entry-level workers, a more than sixteenfold increase from the 1990s. “At that time,” Mr. Zhang said, “we paid 300 and everyone was very happy. Now we pay 5,000 and they are not so happy.”

German companies say they still see room for growth in China. They say the government is not targeting them, because they produce in China and employ predominantly Chinese people.

Vanessa Hellwing, chief financial officer of Chiron, a maker of machine tools used by automakers and the aerospace industry that has a factory in Taicang, said the Chinese economy’s fast recovery from the pandemic had helped compensate for declining sales elsewhere.

Europe remains Chiron’s biggest market, Ms. Hellwing said, but “the most important growth market is China.”

Keith Bradsher reported from Taicang, and Jack Ewing from Frankfurt.

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A Postwar Mercedes, Still Overshadowed by Its Racing Cousins

After World War II, Mercedes-Benz wanted to re-establish its position in the automotive hierarchy, to create a car that, in the words of the board chairman at the time, Wilhelm Haspel, “gold-plates the name Mercedes-Benz again.”

The brand’s place in the German market had been devastated by a long pause in vehicle development while it produced munitions for the Nazis, and by Allied bombing of its factories. Its place in the European market had been corroded by this wartime collusion, including its widespread use of conscripted labor from concentration camps. And it barely had a presence in North America.

It persevered through the late 1940s, like many global automakers, with slightly updated versions of prewar designs, in its case the 170, a rather unremarkable coupe with a small four-cylinder engine.

“This was a very basic model, the 170,” said Michael Kunz, the director of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Irvine, Calif., a company subsidiary dedicated to the history, preservation and restoration of the brand’s vintage products, which date back to 1886. “Historically, we are not known as a basic-car company, so it was important to show a resurrection as a leading producer of luxury goods and highly engineered vehicles.”

Mercedes 300 sedan and convertible. Revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the spring of 1951, the 300 sported a stately design, with a prominent chrome grille, a long formal hood, bulbous fenders that flowed into and out of the front and rear doors, a capacious cabin lined in quality materials, and a tapered rear. It was the largest and fastest production car in West Germany, known in Mercedes’s parlance as a “Representative Class” vehicle.

“These were typically cars that were driven and owned by captains of industry and heads of state,” Mr. Kunz said. “Absolutely the best of the best.”

Brian Rabold, vice president for valuation services at the classic vehicle insurer Hagerty, concurs. “These would have been comparable to a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud or Bentley R-Type,” he said.

They could be had with radio telephones, dictation machines, writing desks, intercoms, partitions between driver and passengers, and custom trim finishes. “If the party ordering it wanted it, the factory would make every attempt to accommodate it,” Mr. Kunz said.

The pope was chauffeured in a specially constructed Landaulet version, with a retractable top over just the rear compartment — a space that contained a single thronelike seat.

300b of 1954 upped power to 125 horses. The 300c of 1955 offered the brand’s first automatic transmission, a must for introduction into the American marketplace.

And the 300d of 1957 added a more modern and rectilinear body that incorporated a nine-inch stretch, nearly half of which went to the rear passenger compartment. It also shed the side window pillars. This gave the car a grand and airy profile, enhanced by its new fuel-injected engine, which produced 160 horsepower.

“From a power perspective, they’re not sports cars,” Mr. Kunz said of the Adenauers, which weighed over two tons. He characterized them instead as ideal autobahn cruisers. “It takes a while to get there, but you can go 90 miles per hour no problem,” he said.

This is in part because the car’s engine, and other drivetrain bits, was shared with another stellar postwar Benz. “They provided much of the technology that was used to produce the 300 SL,” Mr. Kunz said, referring to the remarkably advanced Mercedes Gullwing racecar and coupe of the mid-1950s.

The fact that Adenauers are not sports cars has helped keep their values approachable. “They violate a couple core collector car principles,” Mr. Rabold said. “They have four doors, instead of two. And they’re more grand touring, rather than sporting.”

He continued: “I think that it comes down to an emphasis on craftsmanship instead of showmanship. They’re very refined cars, but they’re subtle in their refinement.”

Thus, according to Hagerty, while “average” Gullwings are $900,000 cars, and top-notch ones can fetch $1.2 million, average Adenauers run around $42,000, and perfect ones can be had for under $100,000.

Also contributing to the 300’s limited collectability is the cost of maintaining and repairing one.

“With these cars, there’s more of everything,” Mr. Kunz said. “A lot of chrome, a tremendous amount of leather, complicated and very beautifully done wood on the interiors. If you have a convertible, the padded roof, a very large roof, there are issues with that.”

He went on: “And they have a very complicated body structure with very tight tolerances. When I show the car to someone, I always say look at the transition from front fender to the front door, and look at what the gaps are. The gaps are like two or three millimeters. It’s challenging to get that right.”

The current retail values of these cars thus don’t support the expense of high-end restorations, which can run well into six figures.

“There was one sedan we did where the customer brought it to us in very poor shape,” Mr. Kunz said. “He said, ‘I know I should have my head examined for restoring this,’ but he had owned the car for many years, and that was the emotional bond. He saw himself as steward of the car, and felt it was his responsibility to do it.”

That value proposition might be shifting. “We show that values on these have gone up around 25 percent over the past two years,” Mr. Rabold said.

This has been pushed in part by increased interest from an atypical audience. To measure interest and appeal, Hagerty tracks insurance quote requests on specific vehicles, with the idea that if someone is seeking coverage for a particular car, that person is either preparing to buy one or has just bought it.

“In 2018, Gen Xers accounted for only 12 percent of quotes on Adenauer Mercedes,” Mr. Rabold said. “But in 2020, that was 32 percent. So that shows that there’s some youth appeal, and I think that’s what’s contributing in part to values going up, as they start to be discovered a little more.”

If you’ve been in the market, it’s a good time to buy, especially if you find a car that someone else has paid to bring back to life.

“These are a really great combination of luxury and engineering. They’re overbuilt. They’re really quality cars,” Mr. Rabold said. “If you can find a restored one of these, it’s a great value.”

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