Frankfurt - German luxury car maker Daimler launched its first hybrid model last week, almost 10 years after the market leader, Toyota.
The world's best-selling limousine, a favourite of world leaders, the Mercedes Benz S Class, is now available in Europe with two motors, one electric and the other petrol (gasoline), to save fuel and cut pollution.
The "CO2 champion of luxury cars", as Mercedes bills it, nonetheless cranks out 186 to 189 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, remaining one of the biggest polluters on the road, well above the European average of around 160 grams.
Auto expert Gerd Lottspiesen from the environmental association VCD told AFP that the German car industry "has been asleep for several years".
"It repeatedly dismissed hybrids. If it is finally waking up, it's pretty late" compared with Toyota, which sold its first hybrid Prius model in Europe nine years ago.