Some crashes have potentially disastrous consequences, and not just for flesh, blood, glass and metal.
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz (W168) A-Class was one of the most radical, bold and innovative designs in the company’s history. It was not only the company’s first transverse-engined FWD production car, but featured an innovative sandwich double-floor structure and an unusually tall but short body that was designed to provide greater than C-Segment passenger accommodation within a footprint no larger than that of a B-Segment supermini. The engine and transmission were engineered in such a way that, in the event of a heavy frontal impact, they would Continue reading “Roll of Shame”
Audi’s A2 confounded the buying public and lost its maker billions, but it was a stellar achievement nonetheless.
Carmakers are for the most part, pathologically averse to matters of risk – and for good reason. The costs of failure can be ruinous. For instance, a cogent argument could be made that Fiat Auto never recovered from the commercial failure of their 2003 Stilo programme, precipitating a decline from which they have never recovered.
Not so Audi, nestled safely within the VW Group mothership, and for decades now, a significant profit centre within the vast German multi-brand automotive titan. Nevertheless, the luxury carmaker is no stranger to the bitter tang of failure, or its financial cost.
Twenty years ago Audi announced the A2, a revolutionary and futuristically styled monopod aimed at elevating the Ingolstadt carmaker’s perception as technological pioneers. Six years later, it was summarily axed, following losses which amounted to around €1.3 bn*, having failed to Continue reading “Space Oddity”
After a long hunt in the pages of the word wide web, I found little clear evidence of green-painted cars. Then I saw one in reality. From Mercedes no less. And they have discovered other colours too.
The colour is Elbaitgreen. Under real sunlight it is a bit lighter than the colour shown in the image, almost yellowish or ffinchy. Also, the transitions from light to dark are smoother than on the picture. That might be to do with the metallic particles in the paint. It gives the car a luminescent and vibrant character.
It’s another new year. What was happening 20 years ago?
At Gaydon, Rover’s engineers worked on the R55 (to be sold as the R40). Predictions suggested a vehicle with rounded windows like a 1992 Nissan Micra and an upright chrome grille with main body surfaces akin to the 75. Rover expected the launch to be in 1999 when the last of the Honda-based Rovers would be phased out.
With total sales of over a million, the W168 Mercedes A-Class is possibly the best selling commercial flop ever. We chart its fall.
The 2012 announcement of Mercedes’ current-generation A-Class and its re-alignment in ethos and market position was viewed by most observers as an expedient business decision based upon 15 torrid years in the compact car game. While Daimler’s creative U-turn elicited little by way of overt criticism, it could equally be regarded as a clear symbol that the Baden-Württemburg car giant conclusively lost the argument.
The W168 A-Class is a fascinating study as much for what it was as what it came to represent, charting the loss of influence wielded by Mercedes’ once inviolate engineering function. Ultimately however, it illustrates the limits to which an upmarket brand can realistically Continue reading “Fallen Star”
The 1993 Vision A and ’94 Studie A were everything the ensuing A-Class failed to be. A genuine Mercedes in miniature.
One doesn’t get to the size and scope of Mercedes-Benz by being incautious, even if at times, an element of risk is sometimes both prudent and necessary. For example, the W201 programme saw the German car giant risk a move downmarket, albeit one taken only after a great deal of consideration and iterative trial. That programme, instigated during the dark days of the post oil-shock 1970’s, wouldn’t see series production as the 190-series until 1982. Continue reading “Loss of Vision – 1994 Mercedes-Benz Studie A”
It may have been 2001 or 2002 when I said to myself that in the A-class, Mercedes had finally built a car to be driven and thrown away without a care.
I can even remember where I was when I had that thought, in a Wimpey housing estate carved from a chalk pit near Greys, Essex. Now, 13 years later, my mental note was verified. If you want to get access to Mercedes privilige, €580 is what you need for a 1998 A140 Elegance with 186,000 km registered. For an equivalent VW Golf with 185,000 km you will need €450. That’s exactly the same ball park. Continue reading “Mercedes’ First Wheelie Bin”