Archive for the 'Mercedes-Benz' Category

This is why some people shouldn’t be on the road…

Monday, February 7th, 2011

So I’m out bicycling in sunny Scottsdale and I pull up to a grocery store and see this Mercedes R-class:

Are those Betty Davis eyes? I’m guessing it is not driven by a male, but who knows. Some people have no business driving an automobile.

Link of the week: MB SL drivers, count your tickets!

Monday, October 25th, 2010

SL 65 AMG Black Series (R230) 2008

The LA Times recently posted an article about the cars most and least likely to be pulled over. The winner? The Mercedes-Benz SL-class is 4.04 times more likely to get you a speeding tickets versus the average. Unsurprisingly, a Buick model was least likely to be ticketed.

Link of the Week: Smart(er) Cars

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Recently reviewing this link from Forbes:
Beyond the KM reflects on the significant technological improvements on the last few years…
No doubt, the features that actively improve safety deserve great acclaim. In that vane, one has to appreciate the achievements of the active cruise control system now available in most high-end luxury sedans. The technology uses radar in the front of the vehicle to throttle and brake the vehicle if it senses that you are too far or too close to the vehicle in front of you.

For several years now Mercedes has also included technology that senses when you are falling asleep behind the wheel of your Benz. If it believe your eyelids are getting heavy, the system will jiggle you in your seat and wake you with loud chirps and indicate to you that you should pull over and catch some “Schlafen”.

A less obvious choice for this category uses a very old technology indeed. BMW and subsidiary company Rolls-Royce have now integrated thermal cameras into their vehicles which assist drivers in recognizing animals or people on the road in front of the vehicle in low-visibility conditions.

Advanced airbags. 25-year-old airbags just exploded in your face, potentially injuring you. Newer technology still protects you, but it does it better because it is sensitive to the severity of the crash, position of the occupant, baby seat-aware, and the size of the passenger as well. Porsche’s Cayenne has this feature. Automakers are also adding more airbags, some vehicles having 8 or more!

Blind-spot assistance is nearly commonplace today as well. Sensors in the car know when another vehicle is in your blind spot, and will notify you with signal in the cabin or on the side-view mirror.

Other smart, but less safety-conscious features include assisted parallel parking (in case your car is too big to easily fit into that spot!). This technology, which involves little or no input from the user to get your car, parked properly without scrapping the paint off your bumper. Available from many automakers now including BMW, Lexus, Ford, and the list goes on…

Self-closing or soft-closing doors and trunks/boots are now de rigueur in many German cars, including the Mercedes and Maybach lineup, the Rolls-Royce lineup, and BMW, just to name a few.

Rear parking cameras. They appear in just about any car these days, from the Toyota Prius to the Lamborghini Gallardo. Never again will you have to worry about backing over you small child. Similarly, it makes parallel parking much easier, especially in larger vehicles.

Flexible fuel cars. This is current and future technology. Some supplier are developing systems to allow cars to run on any of 4 types of fuel, including biofuel, petrol, diesel, and natural gas. Hydrogen will eventually follow.

What’s next?

Inter-car communication. While this has already been attempted by several car makers, we can expect that the future of inter-car communication will include features such as accident avoidance and even vehicle pacing, which would reduce breaking/acceleration, and therefore increase fuel efficiency.

A couple of things, first, Mercedes has already announced they are testing an underbody airbag for their cars. The airbag would deploy in the event of an inevitable crash and by using massive friction, it would slow down the vehicle just a little bit extra – in a crash every millimeter counts!

Autonomous driving vehicles. Audi has been testing a version of the Audi TT, which actually has the ability to run on its own volition and even compete in hill climb racing events. What is next in this area? Well, for one, user acceptance must be achieved. No doubt many people will feel uncomfortable with a computer taking control of their vehicle. Google, too, has been testing a vehicle of this type, which uses a highly computerized Toyota Prius to navigate it around any city street.

Bugatti sightings… why are we so interested?

Sunday, November 15th, 2009
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 in all its glory!

Bugatti Veyron 16.4 in all its glory!

If there was ever a doubt in the halo effect that accompanies a super car launch… if you ever thought Porsche’s Carrera GT, Lamborghini Reventón, Aston Martin’s One-77, VW’s Phaeton, Mercedes SLR, Acura’s NSX, Nissan’s GT-R, and Audi’s R8 were a waste of space and a money losing venture, you were wrong. VW Group’s crowning achievement is undoubtedly the venerable Bugatti Veyron 16.4.

Acquired in 1998 from Italian entrepreneur Romano Artioli, VW immediately set to work building a successor to the EB110. It was considered by many to be the most sophisticated car of its kind at the time, a trait that followed in VW’s iteration called the Veyron 16.4. Even at its introduction and production start in 2005, VW never intended the Veyron to surpass 300 units. Indeed, the company has said that after 300 are produced, the car will be discontinued. Interestingly, this has not resulted in a static design and the company has continued to pump out alterations including “special editions” and a Gran Sport, replete with a removable roof.

It has been said by many that the Bugatti is the ultimate supercar, not just of today, but also of all time. Those who make that argument point to the jaw-dropping 0-60 mph times under 2.5 seconds and a top speed in excess of 400 KM/hour (250+ mph). Others marvel at the 16-cylinder, 4-turbocharger engine or the 10 radiators onboard. Still others marvel that at full speed, the car runs out of full in 12 minutes and the tires burn to a crisp at 15 minutes. All of that in a rather un-dramatic, but stunning fashion.

It is the combination of those factors, the styling, and the EURO1,000,000+ price tag that make the Bugatti the ultimate halo product for VW Group. What is the halo effect, and why is it so important that VW stands to lose millions of euros for each Veyron produced? Halo products in general are the über-expensive, lower volume, highly publicized products that companies produce to create buzz for the company and the other products sold by that company. Even a low volume company like Porsche can benefit from a halo product because these products do so much to bring status and media coverage. A company that produces a rather low quality product can be perceived as one that more generally produces very high-end products. The company may actually lose money selling the halo product, but these halo products are often considered a marketing cost anyway. Ideally, a company would save massive amounts of money on advertising by introducing a product that is constantly covered by the media.

So it is with the Bugatti Veyron. Associating Bugatti with VW Group and providing otherwise sound business strategy has meant that VW has pushed past Toyota (IN A WEAK MARKET!) to become the number one producer of automobiles in not just Europe, but the entire world with 4.4 million units for the year according to IHS Global Insight.

For an example of the aforementioned press coverage, see the following irrelevant, but positive pieces of new coverage:

June 2009 sales abysmal for Europe’s automakers

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Gathered, in part from LeftLane:

Volkswagen says its diesel TDI vehicles are selling well. An impressive 81 percent of Jetta SportWagens were equipped with the TDI, as were 40 percent of Jetta sedans and 29 percent of Touaregs last month. Volkswagen, sales were down 18 percent to 19,027.

Volvo saw a 0.6 percent increase in sales compared to June 2008, though the Swedish marque is still off 35.6 percent for the first six months of the year. The all-new XC60 sold 1,032 units.

Porsche had a disastrous June; just 902 of the automaker’s sports cars left dealer lots, a 66 percent decrease that brought the automaker’s year-to-date sales down 36 percent for the year.

BMW, down 20.1 percent to 16,744.

Maserati, down 47.9 percent to 111.

Mercedes-Benz, down 22.6 percent to 15,155.

Mini, down 21.2 percent to 4,105.

Saab, down 58.4 percent to 779.

European investment in green cars is all the rage!

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


Mercedes E-class BlueTec Hybrid

Mercedes E-class BlueTec Hybrid



Without a doubt, the EU has become the leader in improving the pollution problem for the automotive sector. Recently the U.S. put in a 27.3 mpg average fleet requirement for 2011. Please see: for the latest information and the impact analysis. But is the change enough to get us on the right track? How exactly do carmakers implement changes in their fleet to address the higher requirements?

The European Union defines specific emissions targets for the following 5 years as the following:


History of AMG

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009


AMG E-Klasse Limousine

AMG E-Klasse Limousine



History of AMG

It hasn’t always been the case that AMG was Mercedes’ in-house tuner. 

Check out

for a history of AMG.

30 Years of the G-Class

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Editor’s note: That the iconic, if boxy, Mercedes-Benz G-class has lasted thirty years, virtually unchanged from the exterior, is emblematic of the same sort of fanaticism that follows the 40+ year old Porsche 911. Never a fan of the SUV, the G-class holds a special place in the heart of auto enthusiasts. The true versatility of the vehicle has spanned the globe from the battlefield to the board room. Few cars can make the claim that they have “saved lives”, but between thwarting terrorist attacks and delivering food and medicine to refugee camps. Here’s to another 30 years!!!

A full profile courtesy of Mercedes follows:

The current model range

A full range for fans of the “G”

The model family currently has three body variants (short-wheelbase Station Wagon, long-wheelbase Station Wagon, Convertible), which can be combined with either an economical V6 CDI engine developing 165 kW/224 hp and 540 newton metres, or a powerful 5.5-litre V8 petrol engine with 285 kW/388 hp and 530 newton metres. The flagship G 55 AMG available only as a four-door, long-wheelbase Station Wagon is powered by a supercharged V8-engine developing 373 kW/507 hp. (more…)

January sales figures… as slow as our post…

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Yes, it is the end of February, so it is a bit late for all of this, but Beyond the KM will start trying to post sales figures. The move seems timely since every car sale seems to count a lot more than ever. In fact, we just got an advert from one of the 25 largest US Porsche dealers advertising a “first-time ever” special sale program:


Even Porsche of North Scottsdale is promoting "Big Sales"

Even Porsche of North Scottsdale is promoting "Big Sales"



BTKM is also working to compile European auto numbers by company over time. We have been actively cataloging sales figures for the last few months courtesy of Newspress.


The ugly
The following manufacturers have reported January 2009 sales figures posted on Leftlane News:

(Note that these seem to be U.S. sales only…December 2008 and overall 2008  sales can be found here.

Audi, down 26.4 percent to 4,722
Mercedes-Benz, down 42.9 percent to 10,433
Saab, down 46.1 percent to 955
Smart, up 177.1 percent to 1,776
Volkswagen, down 11.6 percent to 12,744
Volvo, down 63.8 percent to 2,910

Economic failures = new car models for European automakers. Month in review.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Audi R8

The economy is hurting and more and more carmakers are suffering. Not all are doing poorly, though. Audi, as an example reported record sales for 2008, with over 1,000,000 vehicles sold. Lamborghini, owned by the VW/Audi Group, also posted record sales for 2008. Both companies produce sports cars that retail at over US$100,000.

Let us examine the developments of the last month by automaker:

Porsche. There is no substitute for a strong economy. A poor economy negatively impacted sales at the sports car maker, and even a significantly revised 911 model did not save it from a virtual sales slump. Porsche is tighter with numbers than most companies, but while sales were slowing, the company hopes that new models in 2009 will help it combat slumping sales. A four-door car, the Panamera should hit showroom floors in the first half of 2009, while you can expect to drive a 2009 Boxster/Cayman with revised powertrain as soon as March.

In financial news the company announced the first week of January that they had bought an additional 8.16 per cent stake in VW worth 6.1bn Euro/US$8.2bn. Porsche now owns 50.76 per cent of VW Group but may gain further stake in VW, rising to 75 per cent in coming months (if all goes as planned).  In November, news came out that Germany’s upper house of parliament passed new laws regarding ownership of VW, despite European Commission rulings that such laws were illegal.

In November, the high profit-maker in the world gobbled up a stake, which sent hedge funds scrambled to recover from trading, which briefly left VW as the most valuable company in the world. Porsche’s finance team effectively practiced something called “cornering”. Let us not forget that Porsche is better as an investor than as a carmaker – though they are a damned good carmaker. In 2007, the company made 3.6 billion Euros on investments, and only a paltry 1 billion Euros on cars. At a 12 per cent profit margin, the decision to invest in VW stands financial positioning, and partly seeking a partner with whom to share technology development costs.

Still, everyone is watching the dollars and cents these days. Even Porsche has announced that is it pulling out of the American LeMans series for 2009 – in part. It is pulling the P2 team, but not pulling support for the 911 GT3 RSRs in the GT2 category.

Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes has finally announced the much-anticipated E-class for 2009. The new car replaces the round headlights with more rectangular ones, perhaps in the style of the C-class or a Lexus.


Psychosis hits Chrysler…”Mayday, mayday! We’re going down!”

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

According to an article on LeftLane News, Chrysler execs are so delusional these days that they think their prime competitors are Mercedes and BMW. WHAT?????????????

Former Toyota executive Jim Press, and current Chrysler Co-President thinks that the company will build itself a few cars that will beat Cadillac at its own game and attempt to take on BMW and Mercedes for sales. RIIIIIGHT! Where’s this plan coming from?

Who’s next? Ferrari? Is Chrysler the next Lamborghini? The next Porsche? If this is the way management at Chrysler plans to act? What’s next for them, making cars that run on petrol? Oh…wait!? Where’s the originality at Chrysler? Better question, where is the R&D??? Perhaps a bailout should be tied to a commitment to change. Now THERE is a novel idea!

Co-President Press claims to want to rebuild Chrysler as a smaller, nimbler company. But he certainly has to see that this means smaller cars, and alternative energy resources. Perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but how will they accomplish all of this? You’d love to see the plan, huh?


LOTW: If you have to ask, you can NOT afford it!

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

This week’s link come to us from the LA Times’ Dan Neil.

The article discusses
LA Times Article

Lamborghini last year launched the ad personum program to provide individually tailored options to their cars. In January 2008, then went a step further by releasing the following:


Lamborghini Launches The Matte Trend, Proposing A New Dark Blue For Exteriors And Natural Tuscan Leather For Interiors As New Personalization Options

Automobili Lamborghini will present three brand-new examples of vehicle personalization, intentionally drawing inspiration from the most glamorous trends of the world of fashion, at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show on January 13-26, 2008.

The proposed individualizations are part of the Ad Personam personalization program. The vehicles are based on the concept of “think of the impossible” and offers Lamborghini customers the ability to create their own “original”, perfectly tailor-made super sports car.

The Gallardo Spyder will be presented in an innovative Ad Personam matte brown paint, Marrone Apus, now available on standard vehicles in the wake of the enormous success met by the Reventón, the very first Lamborghini offered with a matte finish.

Marrone Apus, an elegant shade halfway between brown and black, gives off exquisite golden reflections in the sunlight due to a pigment able to imbue the paint with an iridescent look.

The interior also exhibits a new shade of brown Alcantara, named Marrone Gaia which is used to upholster the seats. The fabric is combined with Marrone Janus and Bianco Polar leather, with the addition of Pianolac used to cover the center console and steering wheel.

A new shade of light blue, Blu Cepheus, also joins the Ad Personam program. It is proposed for the exteriors of the Murciélago LP640 Coupé and Roadster in Detroit. This pale blue is reminiscent of the naturalistic environment and is deliberately inspired by the purity and transparency of polar ice, in addition to depicting one of the most glamorous shades in fashion today.

This shade also benefits from the same iridescent effects of the matte paint. The same pigment selected for Marrone Apus is used in this case to attain and exalt a more primary blue when reflecting sunlight. Blu Cepheus is iridescent in the light just like icebergs, although it maintains its monochromatic nature.

Another novelty of the Ad Personam program is the leather selected for the interiors of the Murciélago LP640 Roadster. This leather covers the elegant seats of this super sports car, an Italian leather, in keeping with Tuscany’s prestigious tanning tradition. It is untreated, inspired by the natural leather found on horse saddles and leads to natural changes in color over time, a tendency that confirms its natural state and total absence of treatments.

“Lamborghini is strongly focusing on the Ad Personam personalization program due to the importance of offering customers the widest range of possibilities for individualizing their cars. This allows them the ability to reflect their own personality and style,” states Stephan Winkelmann, president and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini. “Many of our customers take advantage of this program as a tool for owning an even more exclusive Lamborghini.”

Competitive advantage: “No-Worry Maintenance” programs

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

For most of the decade now BMW has enjoyed a distinct competitive advantage – at least in the American market. They have offered a four-year, 50,000 mile maintenance-cost-free program called “BMW Ultimate Service”. The service includes free replacement of:

  • Brake Pads
  • Brake Rotors
  • Wiper Blades
  • Scheduled Maintenance (as outlined in the owner’s manual)
  • Oil Changes/topping up of fluids
  • Roadside Maintenance

It’s worth noting that BMW parts are generally well-made, and will not typically require new pads and rotors in this 50,000 miles. Still, it’s nice to know you’re covered. It’s also worth noting what the program does NOT include: tyres and alignment for starters. 


Catholic? Guess Where Your $$$ is going…

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Apparently the Vatican and Mercedes have teamed up to create an “all-new” car for the Pope. 2 years of development time was spent on developing a “holier-than-thou” paint job called “Vatican Mystic White”. This is reportedly a couple of shades brighter than “Ghostly Anti-Devil White” available on most non-Popemobile Mercedes.

A base G-class starts at 72,000 euros for the cabriolet. But given that 2 years of development and god knows how many gallons of wasted paint and bullet-proof steel went into this SUV, the cost most likely soared past an un-Godly $250,000. Looks like Catholics will need to add a few more dollars to that offering plate this season.

The Pope in his new G-Classe Open-top

Clever Audi Commercial

Friday, September 21st, 2007

For your weekend enjoyment:

MySpace for the Futuristic Car

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

The January 29, 2007 edition of Forbes magazine boasted of new technology to be seen in future automobiles. The article outlines a sort social networking for cars – a sort of MySpace if you will. To summarize, carmakers hope to charge consumers a premium to include technology, which allows cars up to 750 feet away to send data to each other such as vehicle location and rate of speed. Indeed the cars communicate with each other to identify an impending crash. In a way it is the same principle that Mercedes radar technology is employing in the latest S-class. In essence this is a sort of early warning system.

Other benefits might include marketing and entertainment opportunities say for example a sort of file sharing between cars as with video or audio files. Imagine pulling into a gas station and receiving a free video download for buying petrol and a car wash.

The downside is that data could be use in negative ways, for example, in a court case to prove speeding. Such wireless systems could also conceivable used to control a car remotely. Another side is that such technology could take a long time to proliferate, and it does not work so fantastically with only a small percentage of users. The Forbes article does point out that “significant improvements” will occur with as little as 7% of America’s 241 million vehicles on the road. Needless to say this technology is a long way off, but it’s this sort of innovation that will drive product growth in the future.

Forbes Article Here

Car of the Year Awards Winter 2007

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Yes, it’s that time of the year, the picks for the best cars as of Winter 2007.

Which European cars are by matter of fact, “the best”? Find out below:

Best Supercar over $500,000: Bugatti Veyron 16.4

Best Supercar under $500,000: Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Best Ultra Luxury Convertible: Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé

Best Ultra Luxury Sedan: Rolls-Royce Phantom

Best Ultra Luxury Coupé: Bentley GT

Best Hot Hatchback: VW GTI

Best Hot Sedan: Audi S8

Best sound: (tie) Ferrari 599 GTB/Ferrari F430

Best sports car under $100,000: Porsche 911 Carrera S

Best sports car over $100,000: Aston Martin DB9 Volante

Best new sports car: Aston Martin V8 Vantage

Best Small Car: Mini Cooper S (John Cooper Works Edition)

Best Old Car Experience: Caterham Lotus 7 SV

Most economical and fun sports car: Lotus Elise

Mid-sized Sedan: BMW M5

Best Car for Old People Who Don’t Give a Damn: Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG

Best SUV: Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG

Best minivan/mpv (yes, I’m ACTUALLY including this category): Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG

Are European automakers the new Ford and GM? Part 2

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

In the previous posting of Beyond the KM, we took a look at the competition that the European automakers from Peugeot to Porsche will face in the coming years. We examined some of the East Asian manufacturers and assessed their strategies in Europe. In this installment we will suggest some strategies that the automakers might employ to fight off the increasing competition from Asia.

First, the marketing must change at European carmakers. Mercedes-Benz, for example, will see competition in the form of a Chery – Chery Automobiles of China that is. As noted in part 1, pointed out before, Chery will compete on price. Mercedes-Benz could never be profitable producing their vehicles and then selling them for $20,000. They require higher costs and profit margins. As a result, Mercedes and BMW must offer superior channels for delivery of vehicles, offer more models to fit as many niches as economically possible, and they must offer as much customization as possible, and they must develop a special connection with owners to retain current customers and gain more. These factors are essential to not just grow the market, but to retain market share in the face of stiff, price-based competition.

A second strategy that the automakers must focus on is innovation. Innovation does not mean BMW’s iDrive (few people find it fun OR enjoyable to spend five minutes “configuring” a car in order to turn it from mild mannered coupé into deadly beast). The innovation will not just come from more computers that interfere with driver usability, rather the innovation will come in the form of safety systems, handling improvements, design improvement, and improvements in drive train. Most importantly in the coming years will be improvements in engine technology that allows for more fuel-efficient engine designs and later the implementation of alternative fuel engines such as hydrogen.

Third, auto service must become increasingly important to the Europeans. Not only do they have the home field advantage, the companies have existing service centers. Additionally, service is typically higher profit than new car sales. Additionally examine, the highline car market. The average profit for a domestic car in the U.S., of which tens of thousands are made each year compared to the Porsche 911, which has fewer and far more customized vehicles, is vastly different. A Ford dealership may make just a few hundred dollars, but a new Porsche can make thousands because it is more exclusive, higher priced, and a very customized vehicle.

In another example, BMW has a service program called BWM Ultimate Service, available only in the U.S. This program should be offered everywhere because it really puts BMW in a class of its own in the way it deals with the customer. Any problem is easily taken care of, no questions asked. This allows the service departments at dealerships to run like cogs in a well-oiled machine. Service is where the profit is and will be in the future, car companies must embrace this.

Another area that will require change in the future will be on the part of government. Government changes must take place at the national and international levels. Tax laws must favor automakers and suppliers both. Labor laws must become less restrictive and more flexible as the market changes. Import laws must also be modified to handle imports from China. The European Union must take notice now so as to allow proper time for discussion.

Finally, the labor force must change. Germany’s automakers are some of the least product in the world. Only recently did VW force its unions to make its members more flexible in the hours it works. Until the recent agreement, VW workers were working under 29 hours per week and were the highest paid in the world! In addition to flexibility of the workers, the work forces in the EU and even U.S. must become smarter. Education levels are rising and the “blue collar” work is the worker of yesterday. In the future, workers will have to be mentally more flexible and be more innovative in the way they work.

Are European automakers the new Ford and GM? Part 1

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Change is afoot in corporate offices in Europe’s automakers. GM and Ford have struggled for many years now with the harsh realities of the global auto market. Now those realities are knocking on the doors of the European automakers. About two-thirds of Western Europe’s carmakers have seen changes in the executive suite in the last two years.

The reasons vary, e.g. BMW’s Helmut Panke left due to age restrictions, yet the BMW board failed to grant him a waive to allow him to drive the ultimate machine longer. The fact remains though that boardrooms and shareholders, alike, are concerned about increasing competition from the Far East.

Once a joke to respectable manufacturers, the Chinese automakers – led by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and Nanjing Automobile – are increasingly competitive. The Chinese are increasingly developing more and more sophisticated facilities and borrowing more and more from the Europeans. Take American Axle and Manufacturing. AAM has been setting up new factories at breakneck pace. Indeed some of the intellectual property has been sold to the Chinese as well.

What all of this means is that the Chinese now have a way to produce good quality cars, yet sell them for next to nothing. Therein lies the problem not just for Renault and Peugeot and VW. Mercedes-Benz and BMW must be careful in their strategies since companies like Chery, is planning to bring their “luxury” automotives to the U.S. market soon. At $20,000 Mercedes and BMW are tracking the company, you can be sure. In the end, automakers will find difficulty in beating the Chinese on price. They must find other ways or they will falter as Ford and GM have done.

The next part in this topic will deal with possible strategies that the European automakers might develop to combat the competition from the east.