A-Class W168 Face-Lift and Rumours

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Photo and photo text: Auto Motor und Sport      Additional background retouching and preparation for the web by MBEP webmaster
New for the actual A-Class: Clearglass headlights, modified skirts, handle on tailgate

Translation of an article from German car mag "Auto Motor und Sport" May 2000

Changes at body and in the interior
A-Class for 2001
Presently prototypes of the renewed A-Class are being tested at Mercedes. In early summer 2001 the small Mercedes, which will then be three and a half years old, will undergo a face-lift. The body gets headlights with clear glass covers, protection strips all-around, a handle for the rear tailgate, a modified front grille and newly styled skirts front and rear. In the interior the A-Class shall be upgraded by more comfortable seats and a cockpit with better quality impression. Additionally in 2001 two new A-Class variants come onto market which both will have a wheelbase extended by roughly 15 centimetres. Model number one is the Vaneo, a city delivery van with a side sliding door which will be produced in Berlin ((Ludwigsfelde to be exact; for a page with several photos and articles about the Vaneo click HERE)). The second model is a long-version with bigger rear doors and noticeably more legroom for the rear seats. The chassis of this long version also gives the base for the next A-Class generation (A169) (("AMS" states A169 and not W169)) which will come 2005.
spy-photo amsw168fl1d.jpg  32KB End of article from "Auto Motor und Sport".
Translation by MBEP webmaster.
As usual remarks in ((blabla)).

Photo: Auto Motor und Sport
Additional background retouching and preparation for the web by MBEP webmaster

Personal comment by MBEP webmaster:
The production of the Vaneo will take place at the Ludwigsfelde plant, which is located roughly 30 kilometres south of the centre of Berlin, Germany, and is no part of Berlin.
The above article from "Auto Motor und Sport" states the wheelbase of the Vaneo will be 15 centimetres longer than with the current A-Class (W168 first version), but data from DaimlerChrysler states the Vaneo will be 4.19 metres long, that's 61 centimetres longer than the current A-Class's 3.58 metres. The very same was stated by "Auto Motor und Sport" earlier, too, so it's obviously rubbish to talk about a wheelbase extension for the Vaneo of only 15 centimetres.

Translation of an article from German car mag "Auto Bild" August 2000

A-Class to be Face-Lifted
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Following the face-lift are long-wheelbase version and minivan "Vaneo"

The A-Class has much more potential than the current one-model strategy shows. A significant increase in sales is hoped in Stuttgart from the version with the long-wheelbase, which goes onto start with modelyear 2002. The car internally known as S168 offers 15 centimetres more between A- and C-pillar. The improvement of space above all is for the benefit of the rear passengers. Who likes to travel with two has an proportionally bigger - because being variable - luggage compartment. With 3.73 metres in length the long A-Class in fact is still 40 centimetres shorter than a ((Volkswagen)) Golf, but offers an nearly as much space (floorspace by height).
Also in autumn 2001 the Berlin-built Vaneo rolls to the dealerships. The five-door looked-after by the MB commercial division (sliding doors at the sides) will be offered as city delivery van (for commercial customers) and as compact passenger van (for private customers).
The long wheelbase and the high roof care for much space on small surface area. But also with the base-model enhancements are coming. The A-Class face-lift intended for late summer 2001is limited to few optical touch ups. New amongst others are clear-glass headlamps with multi-reflector optics, the uni-coloure red rear lights, the design of the wheels, the stronger outlined bumpers and door sills as well as extra-charge items like Xenon-headlamps, parking aid and navigation system.
End of article from "Auto Bild" - translation by MBEP webmaster
photo w168flabl2760.jpg  69KB
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Will the A-Class face the axe?

Latest rumours say the A-Class will die.
MB Enthusiast's Pages does not believe so: DaimlerChrysler sells a lot of A-Classes and will make huge profits in the future from this series so the A-Class will not face the axe.
To make your own opinion here's a little table with the German MB sales:
Model Sales 04/2000  Sales 01-04/2000  Rank
A-Class 7.232 31.618 7th
E-Class 6.773 31.029 9th
C-Class 5.729 25.261 13th
Smart 3.475 12.521 25th
CLK 3.050 12.219 27th
SLK 2.500 8.576 30th
S-Class 1.666 7.137 38th
V-Class/Vito 1.317 4.815 50th
ML 1.223 4.490 53rd
Source: Kraftfahrtbundesamt, Flensburg, Germany .......... Compilation by MBEP webmaster

Below is some info from "Auto Express" and thecarconnection.com

British car magazine "Auto Express" reports at 28.06.00 10:47:

A-Class Surrenders To Smart

Mercedes' first small family car, the quirky A-Class, is facing the axe. Auto Express has discovered bosses at parent firm DaimlerChrysler are to hold top-level talks later this month with a brief of thrashing out the firm's future small car strategy. It is thought there will be no place in the showroom for the 'Baby Benz'.

However, it won't be all doom and gloom at the board meeting in Stuttgart, Germany. Top brass are expected to shake up the two-seater sports sector by officially announcing the sensational Smart Roadster has the go-ahead for production.

The likely demise of the A-Class has been sparked by recent global consolidation of the car industry. DaimlerChrysler bought a stake in Mitsubishi three months ago, but bosses are now questioning the sense of being in the small car sector with three brands – Mercedes, Mitsubishi and Smart. Industry experts believe it would make sense for Mercedes to concentrate on its executive and luxury vehicles. That would mean canning the A-Class at the end of its life cycle, during 2004. A company spokesman refused to
be drawn on the car's future, saying: "We don't comment on speculation."

Mercedes' A-Class was billed as a revolutionary car that set new standards in passenger safety and use of space when launched in October 1997, although at £14,490 it wasn't cheap. But disaster struck within weeks when Swedish journalists put the baby Benz through a swerving manoeuvre known as the elk test at 37 mph. The car dramatically rolled on to its roof. Production was halted and the redesign cost in the region of £100million. With ESP stability control fitted as standard, customer confidence returned and over 14,000 A-Classes were sold in Britain last year.

The A-Class's clever blend of packaging and refreshing looks has won it many fans, but the DaimlerChryselr board is disappointed by the car's profitability. Its market share is set to be squeezed further by chairman Jürgen Schrempp's announcement that a four-seater Smart is to be developed. Built on a Mitsubishi platform, it's likely to be the same size or slightly bigger than the A-Class. Additional pressure will come from the Mercedes Vaneo, the Citroen Berlingo-rivalling utility workhorse due in 2001, and from Chrysler's sub-Neon small car.

Schrempp was one of the keenest supporters of the Smart Roadster concept that wowed the crowds at last October's Frankfurt Motor Show.
The production version will be toned down, but the chairman is keen to keep the car's ambitious styling. The concept shared much with the Smart coupé, including the 599 cc turbocharged three-cylinder powerplant and six-speed sequential gearbox.

Unlike its sibling, the Roadster concept's engine wasn't restricted and was said to have an estimated top speed of around 100 mph. High speed stability had been improved with a longer wheelbase. If production goes according to schedule, it could be in the UK as early as 2002.
Article by Richard Yarrow
Special thanks to Andy B. for sending the article!

And here's what thecarconnection.com reports at June 26th 2000:

A-Class Demise "Crazy"

Benz says speculation it's killing the A-Class is ludicrous.
by William Diem

The death of the A-Class announced a week ago by Automotive News is "pure speculation, 100 percent. It's not worth the paper it's written on," said Andrew May, a Mercedes-Benz spokesman.

In fact, say analysts, the littlest Mercedes-Benz has a nice future, including larger derivatives.

"The A-Class is a very successful product, it's selling very well," said May. "We sold 207,000 last year. ."

"One of the main reasons we did the A-Class in the first place was to attract different customers to the
Mercedes-Benz family," said May. "We have a high loyalty rate for the A-Class of over 70 percent," meaning that 70 percent of A-Class buyers stick with the brand when they trade in their A-Class.

New in ’04?

Nigel Griffith, auto analyst for Standard & Poor's DRI in London, agrees with Mercedes.

"It's been a successful product, apart from the PR disaster at the start," he said, referring to the A-Class’
failure to safely pass a high-speed lane change test known in Scandinavia as the Moose Test. An electronic stability program retrofitted to the car solved the problem.

Griffiths said DRI's inside information confirms the continuation of the program.

"As soon as we heard the report, one of my colleagues rang up a supplier who has a contract to deliver some bits to the replacement, and they hadn't heard anything about it," said Griffiths.

The car was new in 1997, and is due for replacement in 2004 under the project name W169, according to the French suppliers organization FIEV. Mercedes-Benz presented the A-Class as a competitor to the
Volkswagen Golf, Europe's most popular car, although it is smaller and taller. It has a high driving position and comes with a choice of motors from 82 hp to 125 hp. It is not sold in North America because it is too small, says DaimlerChrysler chairman Juergen Schrempp.

Next year, the A-Class will be restyled, and a longer-wheelbase light van called Vaneo will go into production at a new Mercedes truck factory in Ludwigsfelde, Germany.

Shortly afterward, says Griffiths, Mercedes will probably make a passenger version of the Vaneo to compete in the small minivan sector dominated by the Renault Mégane Scénic.

"The front would be an A-Class, the back a cube," he said. "The passenger version would be like a Scénic sized vehicle."

Mercedes also builds the A-Class in Brazil. There has been talk about bringing a larger version of the A-Class, perhaps the minivan version, to the United States, whether from Brazil or Germany.

"Wherever we do a car, we have a certain level of quality," said May. "Different cars for different markets have different setups, but the quality in Brazil is the same as in Europe."
[June 26, 2000]
Special thanks to Michael M. for sending the article!

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