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Mercedes dumping electronics in its cars

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Mercedes hoping to ditch electronics glitches; numerous systems removed

By GEORG AUER | Automotive News Europe

STUTTGART -- It was a rare spectacle: a Mercedes-Benz electronics executive explaining that the automaker had removed 600 electronic functions from its vehicles.

During a 20-minute address at an industry symposium here, Stephan Wolfsried railed against the temptation to overload vehicles with electronic functions that are useless to the customer.

The features haven't helped Mercedes either. Chronic problems in recent years have angered customers and sullied the company's reputation.

It is difficult to integrate these gadgets into a vehicle's electronics infrastructure, said Wolfsried, who is Mercedes-Benz's vice president for electrical and electronics and chassis development.

Electronic components sometimes work well in isolation but cause other electronic equipment to go haywire.

Testing is difficult and time-consuming, so Mercedes is reconsidering its more-is-better approach to gadgets.

"Last year we removed over 600 functions from our cars - functions that no one really needed and no one knew how to use," Wolfsried said. "It is our aim to focus on things that make sense. The driver will not have the option to adjust everything that is adjustable."

One example of an unnecessary feature: individual memory settings on a key fob for seat adjustments.

The issue of electronics glitches comes at a delicate time.

In April, Mercedes was encouraged by a sharp improvement in J.D. Power's annual Initial Quality Study. With 106 defects per 100 cars, the automaker rose to 10th place among automakers, up from 15th place and 132 defects per 100 cars a year earlier.

But that good news was tempered by yet another electronics glitch. In May, Mercedes recalled 680,000 cars worldwide because of a possible malfunction of a new brake-by-wire system on some E- and SL-class models.

Mercedes had developed the brake system, called Sensotronic Brake Control, with longtime technical partner Robert Bosch GmbH. The defects can be fixed at the dealership with a software patch, but the recall was an embarrassing setback.

Bosch has denied German press reports that it introduced the technology too quickly.

Three years ago Mercedes also suffered problems with Bosch's Comand communications system, which integrates the onboard navigator, audio systems and car phone.

When motorists used Comand, the screen sometimes would go blank and systems would malfunction. Comand's defects proved difficult to track down. The electronics would fail sporadically, making it difficult to identify and fix problems.

Mercedes chief Juergen Hubbert subsequently vowed to increase product testing. And as Wolfsried noted, the automaker also is simplifying its electronics. If a vehicle has fewer features, fewer things can go wrong.


its about time mercedes wised up. too much electronic features, especially unreliabe ones, can be a brands undoing.....look at cadillac & lincoln in the early 90s.

will iDrive be next on the chopping block? i hope so.

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