The two-mode hybrid, developed along with GM, was the main fruit of the partnership

The two-mode hybrid, developed along with GM, was the main fruit of the partnership

Japanese carmakers have been building hybrids for years and have largely been successful with their efforts, especially Toyota with its Prius line. General Motors and Ford have been in the game for some years as well but have had limited success compared to their Japanese rivals. European carmakers, on the other hand, have been slow in the field, mostly due to the popularity of diesel models in their home markets.

Germany’s luxury marques BMW and Mercedes Benz, however, are now starting to follow suit with a number of new hybrid models getting ready to hit the market - despite the fact that they don't expect to sell many of them.

Ernst Lieb, chief of Mercedes’ U.S. operations, revealed to Automotive News that because there will "be a price premium on the cars" they are likely to sell in low numbers. The price premium is in place to recover some of the costs of building the hybrid powertrains and is expected to come in at around $1500 or more than a comparable petrol model.

BMW's American chief Jim O'Donnell echoed this view, stating that BMW isn't expecting much in terms of volume, especially considering that petrol has once again become a cheap commodity. Nevertheless, both brands are still rolling the hybrid vehicles out, in order to reduce fleet emissions and test the hybrid waters, so to speak.

Mercedes is set to launch two hybrids this year, one based on the S-Class limo and another on the ML SUV. BMW, meanwhile, will debut a hybrid version of its 7-series later this year and will follow it up with a petrol-electric X6 crossover.