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C Class Doesn't Pass Safety Test - Link Inside

 
Old 08-14-2012, 01:59 AM
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C Class Doesn't Pass Safety Test - Link Inside

Apparently, the C class isn't as safe as expected...
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-f...,7733357.story
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Old 08-14-2012, 05:41 AM
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To be expected. The W204 design is in it's twilight years. The rules have changed while the ball was in the air. It scored a clean Euro NCAP 5 star rating when new. The new W205 will pass all the latest tests ~ plus some testing severity is a subject of debate.
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Old 08-14-2012, 08:44 AM
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In real world crashes, the C-Class will perform quite well. If you look at the video, the cars that are rated higher are the ones that slide off the barrier a bit better than the others.
The C's safety cell looks to be pretty well intact but it didn't do a good job directing the brunt of the blow off to the side. It looks like when the firewall got to the barrier, everthing stopped too abruptly. I do agree that using the crumple zones to direct front end forces laterally will allow cars to "slide/crunch past" each other or objects in certain situations, but that may actually be detrimental in others.
I don't feel any less safe after watching the video.

Last edited by C300Sport; 08-14-2012 at 08:47 AM.
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Old 08-14-2012, 10:49 AM
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This is analogous to studying for geometry, and then being tested on trig. Structural engineers will say, "Show me the crash and I'll design you the car", and that's what has been happening with various regulations providing the minimum, and NCAP and EuroNCAP becoming the de facto standards. Now, with most companies doing well, IIHS decided it was time to raise the bar to spread the field out again. With this new test now publicized, it is only a matter of time and product life cycles until the manufacturers catch up. Of course, as an impact varies by a degree of vector or so either way, these results start to lose their meaning, so the value and representativeness of the test to the real world is always a matter of discussion.

For what it's worth, IIHS also reports insurance losses for all nameplates in various categories, and among mid-size luxury models, the most recent C Class experience shows "average" losses for personal injury, although the data also suggests they pay out a lot of money for fixing the actual cars! Cheap, they're not!
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Old 08-14-2012, 11:27 AM
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Honda had a "ace" up its sleeve with its ACE body structure. The safety of its cars has increased significantly.

The Benz and BMW both apparently have extremely rigid safety cages - note how there is basically no buckling at all of the A-pillar. But this test is tough.. makes me cringe. You'd need to hit a wall at just the right speed and angle and it doesn't seem overly realistic, though I always defend the IIHS because making cars safer should always be encouraged. What I did not like was Mercedes response to this test (not in linked article but found on CNN) - basically that the C-class was fine and the test was flawed.

An important note about this is that while the C-class scored the lowest score of POOR the injuries were not likely to be fatal, the IIHS says this:

Injury measures — Measures from the dummy indicate that injuries to both the left and right lower legs, ankles, and heels would be likely in a crash of this severity. The risk of significant injuries to other body regions is low.

So you would definitely be hurt but are not likely to be killed.

Edit: The IS was a mess:


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Old 08-14-2012, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by LILBENZ230 View Post
Honda had a "ace" up its sleeve with its ACE body structure. The safety of its cars has increased significantly.

The Benz and BMW both apparently have extremely rigid safety cages - note how there is basically no buckling at all of the A-pillar. But this test is tough.. makes me cringe. You'd need to hit a wall at just the right speed and angle and it doesn't seem overly realistic, though I always defend the IIHS because making cars safer should always be encouraged. What I did not like was Mercedes response to this test (not in linked article but found on CNN) - basically that the C-class was fine and the test was flawed.

An important note about this is that while the C-class scored the lowest score of POOR the injuries were not likely to be fatal, the IIHS says this:

Injury measures — Measures from the dummy indicate that injuries to both the left and right lower legs, ankles, and heels would be likely in a crash of this severity. The risk of significant injuries to other body regions is low.

So you would definitely be hurt but are not likely to be killed. They were not impressed at the fact that the C-class was the only car tested that didn't deploy the side and side curtain bags in this crash, which could leave you vulnerable.
The issue with this test is that the entire event is loaded in a small outboard path of the structure and turns the front wheel into a missile aimed at the toeboard. The frequency of this type of hit in the real world is a statistic I don't have, but it would be the justification IIHS likely uses to rationalize this new test versus the 40% overlap. From one article I read, the dummy in the C appeared to suffer foot entrapment and injury, but not much else.

Another thought which I've explained in several depositions is that there is no such thing as a "safe" car. There is no bright line to divide "safe" from "unsafe". There is only risk management, and each design decision has an intended benefit for a cost. An analogy which I've used is that one can always add another plate of armor to a Sherman tank to the point where it can no longer move well enough to serve its primary purpose and there will still be some external force which will be able to penetrate it. Where does one find the right balance? We believe brands such as MB, BMW, Volvo, etc. have found a good balance that addresses most real-world concerns. However, any skilled lab test environment will always find a way to defeat an existing capability.
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Old 08-14-2012, 01:00 PM
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Benz has a history of argument with Euro NCAP. Door locks as an example have been a bone of contention. Benz believes that after an accident the door locks must release to aid evacuation. Euro NCAP does not agree as an example. On this one I agree with Benz.
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Old 08-14-2012, 01:04 PM
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I agree with Benz on that point, too.

I also noticed that the Acura TL's looks were much improved after the crash test was carried out. Another first.
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Old 08-14-2012, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Glyn M Ruck View Post
Benz has a history of argument with Euro NCAP. Door locks as an example have been a bone of contention. Benz believes that after an accident the door locks must release to aid evacuation. Euro NCAP does not agree as an example. On this one I agree with Benz.

This has roots in the philosophy of door release handle override. In the US, last I knew the fed regs, the driver door release handle must override the lock button. The rear door release handles must not override the lock button, and the front right passenger door is at the manufacturer's discretion. Coming from the point of view of occupant kinematics, the EuroNCAP folks think about flailing arms becoming entangled in door handles and flipping doors open, increasing the chance of body part contact with the exterior. This has happened. Benz likely believes it has designed door handles which they do not see get engaged with dummy arms/hands during testing and the ability to rescue an unresponsive victim is the greater good.

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Old 08-14-2012, 03:13 PM
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Here's the full video from the IIHS and the press release to boot. On the front page too if you're interested in the short version.


New crash test aims to drive improvements in protecting people in frontal crashes

ARLINGTON, Va. - Only 3 of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated earn good or acceptable ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new small overlap frontal crash test, the latest addition to a suite of tests designed to help consumers pick the safest vehicles.

The Acura TL and Volvo S60 earn good ratings, while the Infiniti G earns acceptable. The Acura TSX, BMW 3 series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC earn marginal ratings. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 earn poor. All of these cars are 2012 models. See these ratings in table format.

In the test, 25 percent of a car's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph. A 50th percentile male Hybrid III dummy is belted in the driver seat. The test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. Outside of some automakers' proving grounds, such a test isn't currently conducted anywhere else in the United States or Europe.

"Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year," Institute President Adrian Lund says. "Small overlap crashes are a major source of these fatalities. This new test program is based on years of analyzing real-world frontal crashes and then replicating them in our crash test facility to determine how people are being seriously injured and how cars can be designed to protect them better. We think this is the next step in improving frontal crash protection."

The number of drivers of 0-3-year-old passenger vehicles involved in fatal frontal crashes has fallen 55 percent since 2001. Much of the improved outlook is due to the success of consumer information testing like the New Car Assessment Program begun by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 1978 and crashworthiness evaluations the Institute started in 1995. In NHTSA's frontal test, passenger vehicles crash at 35 mph into a rigid barrier covering the full width of the vehicle. In the Institute's 40 mph offset frontal test, now called a moderate overlap frontal test, 40 percent of the total width of a vehicle strikes a deformable barrier on the driver side.

In a 2009 Institute study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants. Another 24 percent of the frontal crashes were moderate overlap crashes, although they likely occurred at much higher speeds than the Institute's moderate overlap test. An additional 14 percent occurred when passenger vehicles underrode large trucks, SUVs or other high-riding passenger vehicles. The Institute is exploring countermeasures for large truck underride crashes and in other research has found that the problem of crash incompatibility between cars and SUVs is being reduced.

Structural integrity

The key to protection in any crash is a strong safety cage that resists deformation to maintain survival space for occupants. Then vehicle restraint systems can do their jobs to cushion and protect people.

"It's Packaging 101. If you ship a fragile item in a strong box, it's more likely to arrive at its destination without breaking. In crashes, people are less vulnerable to injury if the occupant compartment remains intact," Lund explains.

Most modern cars have safety cages built to withstand head-on collisions and moderate overlap frontal crashes with little deformation. At the same time, crush zones help manage crash energy to reduce forces on the occupant compartment. The main crush-zone structures are concentrated in the middle 50 percent of the front end. When a crash involves these structures, the occupant compartment is protected from intrusion, and front airbags and safety belts can effectively restrain and protect occupants.

Small overlap crashes are a different story. These crashes primarily affect a car's outer edges, which aren't well protected by the crush-zone structures. Crash forces go directly into the front wheel, suspension system and firewall. It is not uncommon for the wheel to be forced rearward into the footwell, contributing to even more intrusion in the occupant compartment and resulting in serious leg and foot injuries. To provide effective protection in small overlap crashes, the safety cage needs to resist crash forces that aren't tempered by crush-zone structures. Widening these front-end structures also would help.

"These are severe crashes, and our new test reflects that," Lund says. "Most automakers design their vehicles to ace our moderate overlap frontal test and NHTSA's full-width frontal test, but the problem of small overlap crashes hasn't been addressed. We hope our new rating program will change that."

Luxury and near-luxury cars were first to the test because these models typically get advanced safety features sooner than other vehicles, Lund says.

Vehicle test performance varied widely in the three rating categories: structure, restraints and kinematics, and dummy injury measures. The majority of the cars had lots of occupant compartment intrusion, which contributed to their low overall rating. Occupant motion varied greatly as well, with the dummy missing the airbag in some cases. In others, safety belts allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward toward the A-pillar. Forces measured on the dummy indicated high risk of injury for the legs and feet in several vehicles.

Structurally, the Volvo S60 was best. With only a few inches of intrusion, the occupant compartment looked much the same as it did in a moderate overlap test. Reinforcement of the S60's upper rails and a steel cross member below the instrument panel helped to keep the safety cage intact. Volvo has performed similar small overlap tests as part of its vehicle safety development process since the late 1980s, taking the results into account when designing new models.

The Lexus IS had up to 10 times as much occupant compartment intrusion as the Volvo. In the IS test, the car's A-pillar bent and the footwell collapsed as the left front wheel and tire were forced rearward. The dummy's left foot was entrapped by intruding structure, and its right foot was wedged beneath the brake pedal. Entrapment also was an issue with the Mercedes C-Class. The dummy's right foot ended up wedged beneath the brake pedal as the left front wheel was forced rearward during the crash.

When the Volkswagen CC was put to the test, the driver door was sheared off its hinges. The CC is the first vehicle the Institute has ever evaluated to completely lose its door. An open door results in an automatic downgrade to poor for restraints and kinematics, as also was the case with the Audi A4, whose door opened but remained attached to the car. Doors should stay closed in a crash to keep people from being partially or completely ejected from vehicles.

Restraint systems' key role

Safety belts and airbags are important in any crash configuration, and they are especially taxed in small overlap frontal crashes. When cars strike the test barrier they tend to move sideways away from it, and the interior structures including the driver door, side window and A-pillar move in the same direction. The test dummy, however, keeps moving forward into the path of the sideways-moving interior structures. At the same time, the steering column and driver airbag move inboard in many vehicles because of the way the front end and occupant compartment deform. If the dummy misses the airbag or slides off it, the head and chest are unprotected.

Front airbags are calibrated to deploy in these types of crashes. Side airbags, including head-protecting curtains and chest-protecting torso airbags, don't always deploy because they are designed mainly for true side impacts - think so-called T-bone crashes at intersections. When they do deploy, they don't always do so early enough or extend far enough forward to adequately protect people. The result is an airbag gray zone with gaps between what front airbags cover and what side airbags do - if they deploy at all.

Without airbag protection, people in real-world small overlap frontal crashes can sustain head injuries from direct contact with the A-pillar, dashboard or window sill or by hitting trees, poles or other objects. Chest injuries happen when people contact the steering wheel, door or other intruding structures.

Every luxury car and near-luxury car the Institute evaluated earns good ratings for head, neck and chest injury risk based on measurements from the dummy's sensors. This is true even though there are many cases of serious upper body injuries in real-world crashes with similar vehicle damage.

One possible reason for the differing results is that real people move more during a crash and are prone to be out of position at the start, compared with relatively stiff and precisely positioned crash test dummies. Not all drivers are the same size as the dummy or seated exactly the same way. A close call for the dummy could mean an actual injury for a person. In several crash tests, the dummy's head barely missed the intruding structure of the vehicle, where a real person may have made contact and sustained an injury. Another reason is that the frontal crash dummy the Institute uses in the small overlap test is not good at measuring risks from lateral forces. Side crash dummies do a better job of this but can't sense - or record - much of the frontal action in these tests.

Side curtain and torso airbags deployed in the Acura TL and Volvo S60, although the S60's torso airbag fired too late in the crash to protect the dummy's chest from potential contact with side structures. One or both of the curtain and torso airbags didn't deploy in seven of the cars evaluated. Of the six curtains that deployed, four didn't provide sufficient forward coverage. The Institute lowered restraint and kinematics scores if side airbags didn't deploy or coverage was lacking.

"Side curtain airbags and torso airbags are designed to deploy in side impacts, but they can be beneficial in small overlap frontal crashes as well," Lund says. "If they do deploy, curtain airbags also need to extend far enough forward to protect the head from contact with side structures and outside objects."

For example, in the Lincoln MKZ test, the dummy's head and chest completely missed the front airbag as the steering column moved to the right. The side curtain airbag deployed but didn't extend far enough forward to protect the dummy's head. In comparison, the Acura TL's front and side curtain airbags worked well together to keep the head from coming close to any stiff structures or objects that could cause injury.

Engineers at some manufacturers have indicated that they are adjusting airbag algorithms to deploy side airbags in small overlap frontal crashes. Mercedes, for example, plans changes for the current C-Class.

Another restraint and kinematics issue Institute engineers flagged was excessive forward movement of the driver dummy caused by too much shoulder belt webbing spooling out of the retractor. This was the case with the BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen. Like most new vehicles, these cars have safety belts equipped with load limiters that allow occupants' upper bodies to move forward in frontal crashes when belt loads exceed a specific threshold. Load limiters allow some belt spoolout after the initial impact to reduce belt-force-related thoracic injuries such as rib fractures by allowing people to ride down deflating front airbags. However, too much spoolout can compromise belt effectiveness by allowing belted occupants to move enough to strike hard surfaces inside the vehicle. This concern is greater in small overlaps where occupants may load only a small part of the front airbag or miss it completely.

Tougher award criteria

The Institute's TOP SAFETY PICK award recognizes passenger vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute evaluations. The front rating is based on the moderate overlap test.

The Institute plans to make the top award criteria more stringent by adding the small overlap frontal test to its battery of evaluations. The existing criteria will continue for the 2013 award cycle, but vehicles that excel in the new test will be recognized.

"We won't have evaluated many vehicles in the small overlap test in time for the 2013 award," Lund explains. "Models meeting the current award criteria still offer outstanding protection in most crashes, and they will continue to earn TOP SAFETY PICK in 2013. However, those vehicles that also do well in the new test will get to claim a higher award level that will be announced later this year."

The Institute has tightened award criteria twice since the first winners were announced for 2006 models. Good rear test results and availability of electronic stability control became a requirement starting with 2007 models, and a good roof strength rating became a deciding factor for 2010 models. Stability control is no longer a separate requirement since all 2012 and later vehicles must have the feature as standard under federal rules.

Automakers have been quick to rise to the occasion whenever the Institute has added a new evaluation to its vehicle test program, and the small overlap test should be no exception.

"Manufacturers recognize that this crash mode poses a significant risk to their customers and have indicated they plan structural and restraint changes to improve protection in small overlap frontal crashes," Lund says.

Next, the Institute will assess midsize moderately priced cars, including such top-selling models as the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
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Old 08-14-2012, 07:48 PM
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I am not really worried about this test. Firstly, you will notice that the vehicles that did good or okay on the test, had their wheels snap entirely off, propeling the vehicle away from the barrier, avoiding the majority of impact force. And yet, these some of these vehicles also had flex in the A-Pillar even though they didn't take nearly the same force as the BMW or Mercedes.

Now, when you look at the chance of a test like this happening, I don't see the point. I would assume that this is to simulate pole impacts? Why not just use an offset pole then... 40mph is too slow to simulate two cars coliding, and even if they did at such a high offset, they would just bounce off eachother. So I stand behind mercedes in saying that this test is irrelevant, and that I would still rather drive my 2012 C-Class then a G-Sedan.
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Old 08-15-2012, 03:30 PM
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The C in C class stands for cheap. It is the lowest quality mercedes in the whole line up. I wish they would have tested the E or S class.
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Old 08-15-2012, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by smo0othride View Post
The C in C class stands for cheap. It is the lowest quality mercedes in the whole line up. I wish they would have tested the E or S class.
Whatever your personal issue may be with the C Class, you don't get to have your own facts. The C Class nomenclature actually is derived from European vehicle segmentation (although I recognize your attempt at sarcasm). However, it is not "cheap" as other cars of similar size can be purchased for much less money, so relative to its segment, it is among the more expensive. It is also not the lowest quality Mercedes in the whole line-up, as its data-based DQR is superior to some other Mercedes Benz vehicles, including some quite a bit more expensive. Its quality is also superior to similar segment competitors. It is also not the smallest, nor the MB entry level vehicle, if one expands their view beyond the US. Mercedes A Class and B Class vehicles are smaller and even less costly, the existence of which will undoubtedly irritate you even further when they arrive state-side next year. Lastly, your wish indicates you do not understand the test. It was of comparably-sized small luxury sedans. An S Class would not have been comparable to the 3 series, VW CC, Lexus IS, etc. which were also tested, which would have rendered its inclusion in this test nonsensical.

Every post you have shared to date indicates some personal hostility with the C Class, which you apparently do not own nor lease. Why not visit some other forum where you may be less unhappy?

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Old 08-15-2012, 06:28 PM
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Well said ^. Notice his collection of vintage iron that he no doubt bought for peanuts at US pricing. Can't stand snobs.

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Old 08-15-2012, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Glyn M Ruck View Post
To be expected. The W204 design is in it's twilight years. The rules have changed while the ball was in the air. It scored a clean Euro NCAP 5 star rating when new. The new W205 will pass all the latest tests ~ plus some testing severity is a subject of debate.
I having a hard time reconciling Mercedes dismissal of this test and reports that the W205 will fair better. Either Mercedes is taking this test into account in chassis design or they think that it rubbish.
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Old 08-15-2012, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by MBNUT1 View Post
I having a hard time reconciling Mercedes dismissal of this test and reports that the W205 will fair better. Either Mercedes is taking this test into account in chassis design or they think that it rubbish.
It's actually not inconsistent at all, given how auto companies are structured. The PR department is charged with maintaining the company's public posture in support of current product, so they diplomatically reassert the wisdom of what they have done so far. Meanwhile, back in the body development area(it's predominantly a body-in-white issue, not chassis), the assignment has been handed down to the W205 design release engineers to incorporate a counter-measure to cope with this new test. This results in a Change Notice which will drive modifications to dies for stampings, and, given the location of the hit might include some changes to suspension component mountings to reduce the likelihood of the wheel becoming a missile aimed at the toe board. Then, come the post-launch W205 test, voila, MB will remind us that their vehicles meet all regulatory requirements, express gratification at the new results showing them succeeding on this test, and will point to their wisdom in making such an accomplishment.
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Old 08-15-2012, 09:14 PM
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Indeed! If it's part of Euro NCAP they will walk it with new models.
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Old 08-15-2012, 09:59 PM
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"Mercedes did not agree with its ranking and pointed out that the C-Class is listed as one of the institute’s top safety picks. Mercedes said the crash test mimics an unusually severe and uncommon scenario. “As a leader in automotive safety, we have full confidence in the protection that the C-Class affords its occupants, and less confidence in any test that doesn’t reflect that,” Mercedes said in a statement."



IMHO this is not the posture of a leader in vehicle safety which I think the test bears out.

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Old 08-15-2012, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by MBNUT1 View Post
"Mercedes did not agree with its ranking and pointed out that the C-Class is listed as one of the institute’s top safety picks. Mercedes said the crash test mimics an unusually severe and uncommon scenario. “As a leader in automotive safety, we have full confidence in the protection that the C-Class affords its occupants, and less confidence in any test that doesn’t reflect that,” Mercedes said in a statement."


If they aren't confident in any test that doesn't reflect that the C Class is safe then why change? Sounds like a waste of resources to address something that isn't a problem
Welcome to the world of Public Relations. Manage today's crisis. Tomorrow is "years away". Detroit was the same for years regarding NCAP but started to actually advertise star ratings once they did well, not before, when they challenged the validity of the test. This behavior is old hat.

Wait and see. The W205 will pass and then they will crow about it. Mercedes is pretty much a typical car company for structure and process...they just make better stuff.

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Old 08-15-2012, 10:11 PM
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There wouldn't be a crisis if they lived up to my expectation of them as a company. Their PR dept would have said "Small overlap? What small overlap? We've been studying this for years and recognized that was a concern. Sure can't figure out why it was such a struggle for the other guys. Volvo, Honda bravo for those guys for being on top of it too"

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Old 08-15-2012, 11:20 PM
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Originally Posted by MBNUT1 View Post
"Mercedes did not agree with its ranking and pointed out that the C-Class is listed as one of the institute’s top safety picks. Mercedes said the crash test mimics an unusually severe and uncommon scenario. “As a leader in automotive safety, we have full confidence in the protection that the C-Class affords its occupants, and less confidence in any test that doesn’t reflect that,” Mercedes said in a statement."



IMHO this is not the posture of a leader in vehicle safety which I think the test bears out.
Having seen it many times before, I would say this is the typical German response. "Ve know best und do not qvestion us.
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Old 08-16-2012, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by RLE View Post
Having seen it many times before, I would say this is the typical German response. "Ve know best und do not qvestion us.
I agree with this entirely. The other PR departments said similar things about the vehicles meeting all standards, etc. But Mercedes simply dismissed it entirely. There is nothing wrong with our car, it is your test that is screwed!

I'm sure the W205 will ace the test. That's the whole point. The IIHS is forever moving the goal posts to make the auto manufacturers up the ante on safety.
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Old 08-16-2012, 12:26 PM
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Mercedes' need to find better PR folks if that's the "official statement". Glad to see Honda do well though. Always admired that company's engineering and no BS attitude.

Not going to defend MB, spend less time on marketing and more time on being a leader. The A4 is a joke though. truth in engineering? yeah right.
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Old 08-16-2012, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Sportstick View Post
Now, with most companies doing well, IIHS decided it was time to raise the bar to spread the field out again.
And let's not forget where IIHS gets their funding from... the insurance companies. With this new test, all of a sudden, many cars will no longer get top marks for safety (until the car industry catches up), which will give your insurance company a reason to charge you higher insurance premiums "because you're car isn't that safe."

And once the car industry does catch up, this new "safer" car will of course be more expensive to you as a result. After all, it takes more R&D to design it in a way that it can pass yet another test.

I'm also wondering... if you're going to make cars stronger to withstand such small overlap frontal test, will that potentially also make the cars more dangerous to pedestrians/cyclists? I guess it's for the engineers to marry the two conflicting requirements in a single design somehow...
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Old 08-16-2012, 04:53 PM
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My 05 C230 still qualifies as a safe car for a discount with State Farm. It is much cheaper for an insurance company to fix or total a car than to fix a severely injured human. I can see why they would want cars to be safer.
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