Over the years Mercedes has built up a reputation for introducing industry-first technologies and safety systems. The most obvious Mercedes first was a patent for the automobile in 1885. Nearly 100 years later the 1978 S Class becomes the first production car to introduce ABS. Electronic stability control, Brake Assist, active suspension the S Class introduced many technology production firsts that eventually trickle down to the entire automotive industry. And airbags, the S Class was the first production car to introduce a driver’s airbag which eventually led to passenger-side airbags. Mercedes beat them all, making their cars safer while riding on the back of a technological wave.
So they built up an image of passenger safety which gives the impression that Mercedes takes very seriously the well being of their customers. But the reality could not be further from reality. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is filing a lawsuit accusing Mercedes of downplaying the risks of driving with defective airbags. The airbags in question were supplied by Takata which were installed in cars from model years 2002 through 2015.
The Takata airbags had a design fault. Upon impact, the airbag would ignite with explosive force. Residual metal fragments traveling at high speed showered the interior like an array of bullets. Nineteen people in the USA died as a direct result. This led to a worldwide recall affecting 100 million cars. Many car manufacturers were involved in clearing up the mess caused by Takata Airbags.
You would expect Mercedes to take this issue very seriously, after all, they were the first to introduce passenger airbags. But no, Mercedes has done it again, they done it again by taking shortcuts and neglecting the safety of their consumers.
The ACCC lawsuit accuses Mercedes Australia of instructing staff to downplay the risks of driving a Mercedes installed with the defective Takata airbag. Why would they do this? why knowingly put their customers in danger? The motivation to do so was probably driven by profiteering.
Mercedes Australia countered ACCC’s lawsuit by saying that it has replaced 97.7 percent of affected airbags. But the reputational damage to Mercedes can not be underestimated. Here is a company proud of its safety-first record instructing consumers that a car with a defective and deadly airbag is completely safe to drive.
But as always reputational damage to such a large manufacturing jugegrnaut is temporary. In one year from now, people will be saying Takata who?