The Mercedes-Benz Avatar-inspired vision of sustainable mobility practically swam across a Las Vegas theater stage, gill-like flaps across the rear opening and closing as though breathing.
Oscar-winning director James Cameron gushed about the German automaker's expression of how it wants man and machine to coexist without further damaging the planet.
The 2009 blockbuster "Avatar" told of the lush alien world of Pandora, where primitive-looking but highly evolved Na'vi must link to human minds to allow for free movement in a poisonous environment.
The automotive metaphor called Vision AVTR was inescapable.
"It is less of a machine and more of a living creature," said Ola Källenius, chairman of the board of Mercedes-Benz and Daimler AG. He revealed the concept during his keynote address Jan. 6 at CES 2020.
Mercedes-Benz designers appeared on stage alongside their movie counterparts from Lightstorm Entertainment, discussing the inspiration of the car and four Avatar movie sequels, the first of which will be released Dec.18, 2020.
"This is much more than just an organic design," said Gorden Wagener, chief design officer for Mercedes-Benz. "This concept car really merges the car and the driver into one living organism."
No one said whether the Vision AVTR would appear in any of the films or be used for promotion.
"I look at this vehicle and I see the future," Cameron said, "not just an automotive future with all the wonderful things it could feed back into real production cars, but it's also an aspirational future."
Cameron won three Academy Awards for "Titanic" two decades ago. "Titanic" and "Avatar" held global ticket sales records until being surpassed by Marvel Studios' "Avengers: Endgame" in 2019.
Appearing on stage with Källenius at the Park MGM Theater, where robotic butterflies flitted about before the program, Cameron said Mercedes-Benz commitments to carbon neutrality by 2039 in major markets and its plans for biometric control between car and driver place it far ahead of competitors.
"I think it shows such a leadership position that so many other companies are going to have to follow," he said.
Not the recent past, however.
In 2019, Daimler was fined $960 million for "negligent violation of supervisory duties" in selling about 684,000 vehicles that failed to meet nitrogen oxide emission regulations. Institutional investors sued Daimler on Dec. 30, 2019, seeking $1 billion for failing to disclose financial risks involved in the use of emissions-cheating devices.
Before the Vision AVTR debut, Källenius detailed sustainability promises outlined in October by Martin Daum, chairman of the board of management of Daimler Truck AG. Among the commitments:
- Battery-electric series-production vehicles by 2022 in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
- CO2-neutral production plants in Europe by 2022 with all other plants to follow.
- Hydrogen-based series-production vehicles by the end of the 2020s.
The Stuttgart, Germany-based automaker is adopting a reduce, reuse and recycle approach to "decouple volume growth from resource consumption," Källenius said. "Fewer cars are not the solution. Better cars are. We want to close the loop from value chain to value cycle."
Källenius said Daimler would:
- Reduce the CO2 footprint to carbon neutrality over three production lifecycles in the next two decades.
- Use one-third less water in its plants by 2030 and reuse water.
- Reduce the amount of energy needed to produce a vehicle by 40% by 2030.
- Generate 40% less waste per vehicle, also by 2030.
The Vision AVTR features a fully recyclable battery based on organic cell chemistry.
"It doesn't need material like nickel and cobalt. This means in the future the battery could be compostable," Källenius said. "But of course, it's got to offer incredibly fast charging."