Daimler-Benz pulls its new launch

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STUTTGART -- In a surprise turn-around, Daimler-Benz here announced November 11 that it will temporarily halt delivery of its new Mercedes-Benz A-Class model - launched just weeks ago - because of continuing concerns about its safety.

The ad campaign that had been promoting its launch as early as last year in its home market, has also therefore been stopped "for the time being," according to Daimler-Benz officials.

Rumor has it that an entire cinema audience in Germany broke into laughter when the A-Class commercial ran, following widespread and damaging reports over the past two weeks that the car failed technical tests in Sweden. Springer & Jacoby, Hamburg, created the campaign which has been adapted throughout Europe.

Dentsu produced the campaign for Japan where the A-Class was presented at the Tokyo Motor Show - just at the time that news broke of the car tipping up during Sweden's so-called "moose" test, in which drivers simulate having to switch lanes suddenly to avoid a moose on the road.

As recently as Sunday November 9, company executives were denying there was any intention to stop production of the car, which marks the company's first move into the smaller, economical car market.

Now they have said that new cars will be equipped with different tires and an expensive, stabilizing electronic co- pilot (ESP) before being released for sale in February next year.

The 1998 production target of 180,000 A-Class cars has now been revised to 160,000. In 1999, production will begin in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, with the aim of an annual turn-out of 70,000 vehicles.

Daimler-Benz has spent $1.56 billion on developing and creating the A-Class.

Just last week, the company was endeavoring to use advertising as a sticking plaster for the damage done to its brand. In a surprising move, it attempted humor in full-page ads in 10 Danish and 60 Swedish newspapers that carried the caption: "The famous Mercedes-Benz star has a big advantage: it can be read even if the car is upside down!"

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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