Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mercedes Learns to build cars and quits Construction Business

Hi all
This is an important post for me.
Back in the day when the Mercedes A Class was just a sketch, me and my dad has a big discussion.
I still remember it because it happened during a visit to an "water slide park" and instead of enjoying the slides, we got into the most nerving discussion sited by the towels area and having a sheet of paper with the picture of an ugly car between the 2.
As soon as he commented out loud "And here we are... mercedes are entering the VW Golf world" things started.
Looking at the car I immediately stated "It's as ugly as it can be without being mistaken with sillyputty (the computer game toon)".
Than I took about 5 more seconds and stated "Either the newspaper picture is not well scaled, or this car will be an assassin and will be unable to go around bends".
That was dad beat his hand hard on the towel and replied "ohhh I see, so now you know better that mercedes engineers! You! A kid!"
This bothered me immensely. Kid or no Kid, I studied physics and in my particular case I was very devoted to motion dynamics and cars.
The discussion went on all afternoon and ultimately ended with my father pointing out how stupid I was, assuming all that from a simple newspaper picture and that my well known BIASED opinion against mercedes was taking over my judgment ability.
This issue was "closed" with this statement and me being hurt by my father's lack of trust in my physics knowledge that, in turn, he WAS paying good money for me to build up!
I didn't knew than that EURONCAP was starting to test all cars against a possible immediate road obstacle avoidance procedure by unsettling the chassis brutally on the lateral G scale.
It didn't took long to read the shocking news that the A-class mercedes (together with the soon to be released Smart) failles this test catastrophically. I'm going to be honest with you... I WAS THRILLED and LOOOVED the horrifying news. In part because it was a failure of what I consider a classic mercedes problem (comfort over dynamic efficiency) and in part because my father would have to come around and apologize.
This is the Video of that wonderful test.
Those were times of pure triumph. Dad looked shocked in both on how could they engineer a car that bad, and also how could I jnow better then them and predict that outcome just by looking at the car's pictures.
Every one knows the evolution of the A class project. Extreme, desperate measures to make the car usably stable. Huge brakes to cope with the always under usage ESP and even so, just don't go hard around bends unless you want to sample a different view of the world.

The second version of the A-Class was still a failure... and the B-Class with it.
In terms of engineering, is has flaws that the recently arrived into the market Koreans didn't do. Honestly! Next time you follow an AClass V2 or an BClass, take a good look at the rear suspension arms. The right one is a simple, straight design, but the left one!? The left on is the same as the right arm, but with a bent in the middle!!! Why? well it seams that mercedes engineers built a chassis design and then remembered "VAIT ZE CARR MUST VAVE ZE TAIL PIPE! VERE ZHOSE ZIT GOES?" and then decided to bend a vital suspension element around it.
It's not problematic that the A Class left rear arm weights more that the right rear arm... a car like that will never race and there fore misses a balanced and equally biased chassis in the same way I miss Alicia Keys songs. But still that's JUST BAD ENGINEERING.
It seams to me that Mercedes is having a bigger a bigger misdirection of what is a car and decided to start building houses. Does the A Class have room? hell yeah.. It's built in hight like the sky-scrapers... it must have room to live-in, throw a party, have an orgy.... but the problem is that my building has the same but it doesn't have the pretension to go around bends... and the A-class does.
It's simple physics...building a car out of steel with is higher than wider, fitting some comfortable suspension (A.K.A. SPRINGS) underneath-it and then trying to left-than-right-turn will ALLWAYS...ALLWAYS end upside down.

If there is something that characterizes German car makers is their rather obsessive control of the owner's usage of the car.
AUDI for instance, builds EXCELLENT chassis and some pretty decent engine/gearbox packages, built within a good quality product, but then they ruin everything with their suspension settings making the car under-steer on the grip limit. This is very frustrating IF you know how to drive properly...if, however you don't, the feeling of loosing the car control will make you either lift-off or even brake, making the Under-steer setup a solution for the idiot driver.
I'm just stating this because the Knowledgeable driver will be extremely frustrated by not being able to explore the VERY expensive car he just brought, but the idiot driver will be confident he is the best is the world and happy with the car.
In a sentence, AUDI invests blindly in chassis engineering quality, and then throws most of it away while assuming that the driver can't drive.
Mercedes on the other hand seams to be building poorly engineered cars, and assuming that the driver will know how to drive. This would not shock me if somehow mercedes had been brought by an american car giant like chrysler or GM... but it just isn't so.

It's time for a confession...I'm not a Mercedes guy. I hate their concept of comfort to the extreme and then you end up with either a 2 story car like the A-class, a funerary mobile like the B-class, or a 2 or 3 tones saloon like the rest of their cars. I'm the guy that thinks that extreme comfort is something for the living room because it stays put instead of going around bends. In the same way, a car should be dynamical efficient and if that means discomfort... then be it, because it's meant to go around bends. That way, if you want to relax, go home and watch a DVD. If, on the other hand, you want excitement, go and destroy a set of tires around a beautiful mountain road on a discomforting but brilliant car, then have sex and then shower.

Following this line of thought, the ONLY Mercedes I ever liked is the original Gullwing with a tubular steel chassis light enough a man lift-it by it's self... that one WAS quite something... from that point onwards, all they've built was sofas, living-rooms and full duplexes on wheels, making Mercedes a company in the construction business.

But then, alter years building houses, Mercedes decided to look to AUDI on their right side, and then to BMW on their left side... and some kind of miracle happened.
I don't know if they've just had a corporate wide enlightenment, of decided to contract their competitors engineering teams, but I like the news.
The new Mercedes A-Class is a sort of copy between the BMW and the Audi A3 merged together with a Mercedes C Class front grid.
Now if this was a normal car building company, I would say it's a design without identity and simply copying it's rivals instead of improving, but being a Mercedes, its actually something to cheer for. It actually looks like a car that could be driven...
... congrats Mercedes, looks like you are planing to move out of the construction business and start building cars again... let's see how it goes in the future ;)

--------------------> UPDATE <-------------------
The prototype has been built and it's very close to the initial sketch. I love it and I've already wrote a new article HERE