Merc's baby to be made wider
A TOP car maker, already embarrassed by the flop of its A-Class model, has been forced to delay the launch of another small automobile because of safety problems.
Germany's Daimler-Benz AG, recently forced to withdraw its Mercedes A-Class car, admitted yesterday it will delay launching its other new small automobile until October 1998.
The highly touted Smart car, a two-seat mini vehicle built by Daimler-Benz in partnership with the Swiss watchmaker Swatch, flipped over in extreme manoeuvring tests like the new A-Class, forcing engineers to minimally widen the body.
The crisis over the Smart car, developed and built by the Micro Compact Car (MCC) joint venture, led to the removal of Johann Tomforde, head of the research and development team, who has bee assigned to ``other duties''.
Nicolas Hayek, chairman of watchmaker Ste Suisse Microelectronique et d'Horlogerie SA (SMH), admitted the Smart car had ``failed under very extreme conditions''. ``We will make it somewhat wider,'' he added.
The Smart car was only 2.5 metres long and 1.45 metres wide.
Hayek said the Smart's stability had been checked after the A-Class tipped over in October in the now-famous ``elk test,'' named by Scandinavian drivers for the sudden braking turns at high speed needed to avoid ramming into wild elk.