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The brains behind the world’s most intelligent executive saloon

The brains behind the world's most intelligent executive saloon

Launched in the second quarter of 2016, the 10th-generation Mercedes Benz E-Class has been positioned as the most intelligent executive saloon in the world, and a milestone on the way to accident-free and autonomous driving.

This positioning is encapsulated in the global cross-channel marketing campaign, which is built around the statement: “The E-Class. Masterpiece of Intelligence.”

“The new E-Class, our masterpiece of intelligence sets new standards in safety and comfort and embodies the essence of Mercedes-Benz: The aspiration of perfection. This is exactly what underlines our campaign,” said Dr Jens Thiemer, Vice President Marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars in an April press release.

Marketing of the connected car has also gone on-line through Amazon. The Amazon websites in Germany, France, Great Britain and Japan showed a product page on the new E-Class, with extracts from the interac­tive web special “The mind behind”. Potential customers could arrange a test drive with Mercedes-Benz. The cooperation enabled the Stuttgart-based premium brand to make a targeted approach and provide more in-depth product information and also allows the generation and direct booking of “serious test drives,” according to the company.

In May, the new E-Class won the prize for the best interior of a standard production automobile, with touch control buttons on the steering wheel of the same model series being voted Interior innovation of the year at the Automotive Interiors Expo 2016 held in Stuttgart. The E-Class is the first car to feature touch control but tons on the steering wheel. They allow the driver to control the en­tire infotainment system using finger swipes without having to take their hands off the steering wheel. A new type of multifunctional switch for the steering wheel was developed by Preh, which won a special supplier award from Daimler for the innovation.

Another first for the new Mercedes Benz E-Class is that the newly developed four-cylinder diesel engine OM 654 consumes as little as 3.9 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers while at the same time being more powerful than its predecessor (143 kW/195 hp compared with 125 kW/170 hp). It meets the September 2017 European Union emission regulations. The new four-cylinder engine is the first member of a modu­lar engine family that will be applied throughout the entire portfolios of Mercedes-Benz Cars and also at Mercedes-Benz Vans.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Thomas Weber Member of the Board of Management of Daimler Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, what makes the new Mercedes Benz E-Class a “masterpiece of intelligence”.

Weber: The E-Class is the core of the Mer­cedes-Benz brand and in the past has repeatedly redefined the standards in the executive-class segment. Now it carries this tradition into the future with a wealth of top-class innovations. In addition, it enhances efficiency, safety and comfort, reduces the stress level when driving and intensifies the motoring pleasure.

AI: How is it taking you towards autonomous driving?

Weber: The new DRIVE PILOT, for instance, offers semi-au­tonomous functions such as following vehicles at up to 210 km/h, steering or braking when necessary and changing lanes on the autobahn. In addition, the new E-Class is the world’s first series produced vehicle to be awarded a test licence for autonomous driving in the US state of Nevada. This was achieved by simply modifying the vehicle software, while the standard hardware re­mained unchanged.

AI: What engine technology breakthroughs has Daimler made?

Weber: Mercedes-Benz attaches key importance to the optimi­zation of modern combustion engines in its roadmap to sustainable mobility. The latest engine technology, the OM 654, has been intro­duced in our new E-Class (E220 d), marking the debut of a ground-breaking family of engines by Mercedes-Benz.

Exemplary efficiency and emissions ensure that the premium diesel is future-proof, while underlining the key role to be played by the diesel engine in achieving the challenging global climate targets. That has already been confirmed by independent mea­surements by DEKRA, a German vehicle inspection company. In 2017 we will also introduce the 48-volt on-board power sup­ply, which will aim at fuel savings previously only possible in the exclusive domain of high-voltage hybrid technology. Integrated starter generators (ISG) and belt-driven starter genera­tors (RSG) are further components in enhancing the efficiency of internal combustion engines. And what has be­come the standard for diesel engines will also soon be used for petrol engines at Mercedes-Benz.

Furthermore, Mercedes-Benz is the first manufacturer plan­ning the large-scale use of particulate filters also for petrol en­gines to further improve the environmental compatibility. After more than two years of positive field experience in the S 500, additional variants of the S-Class powered by a petrol engine are to be equipped with this new technology as part of the model update starting next year. AI asked Gorden Wagener, Head of Design Daimler, what makes the multi award-winning interior design so special.

Wagener: With its contemporary luxury, the new E-Class em­bodies the perfect interpretation of the design philosophy of sensual purity, both in the exterior – and in the interior. It is the most beautiful and luxurious E-Class of all time, while also exuding a sporty elegance.

AI: Tell us a little about the design process behind the new E-Class.

Wagener: A revolution is currently under way, triggered by digitalisation and networking. Therein lies one of the great challenges facing the automobile designer especially when it comes to the interior. Also, people spend more time in the vehicle, with the car increasingly becoming a “third place” in which one can work, relax or con­tact friends by video-conferencing. Naturally, this had an impact on interior design of the E-Class. In general, all our vehicles will continue to follow the design philosophy of sensual purity, which is given its own distinctive interpretation depending on the model series. This applies to both exterior design and interior design.

AI: Did Daimler and Preh work together on the new steering wheel technology?

Wagener: It goes without saying that we worked together closely from the beginning of the process

AI asked Hartmut Sinkwitz, Director Interior Design – Mercedes-Benz, what makes the interior of the new E-Class special.

Sinkwitz: With the interior of the new E-Class we are giving a new interpretation to the concept of contemporary luxury.

AI: How closely did you work with suppliers to get the best technology inputs?

Sinkwitz: Very close.

AI: What were some of the challenges in designing interi­ors for a business saloon – what are customers looking for?

Sinkwitz: We have designed a spacious and intelligent inte­rior. True to Mercedes-Benz’s design philosophy of sensual purity, it employs technological innovation and high-grade equipment to create an exceptionally emo tive experience for driver and front passenger. The E-Class thus sets a new standard in the executive saloon class. In addition to being a workplace and pri­vate environment, it is also a living area in which passengers are able to enjoy contemporary luxury.

AI asked Klaus Zehender Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Procurement & Supplier Quality, how important relationships are between suppliers and Daimler. Zehender: Automobile production, especially in the premium segment, can only be successful if there is a close cooperation between car manufacturers and suppliers. Our purchasing strategy is based on three pillars: innova­tion, top quality and partnership. The highest standards of quality are key to meeting customers’ expectations of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Just as important are innovative contributions that help us to secure our technology leadership, not to mention supreme reliability for supplying our production and a competitive cost position. This, along with our own expertise, puts us in an excellent position to en­sure our competitiveness in the long term.

AI: How closely do you work with suppliers to help them create new technologies for Daimler?

Zehender: At Mercedes-Benz Cars we believe in an open and pro-active approach to the supplier relationship. For us, it is crucial, that we work closely together from the very beginning with our suppliers to get innovations in our cars. In addition, we encourage our partners to come up with innovations and ideas for future cooperation. The major importance is that technology for innovations are made available in lo­cal sourcing markets like China and Mexico. It is also part of our strat­egy to identify together with the supplier further cost potentials during the lifecycle of any component. In turn, suppliers also benefit from our world-wide growth and expertise in the premium segment.

AI: Tell us about this year’s supplier awards – what were some of the innovative technologies that were awarded prizes?

Zehender: Performance is measured in terms of quality, cost, delivery reliability and innovative strength. One of this year’s most in­novative technologies awarded by Mercedes-Benz Cars is a new type of multifunctional switch developed and manufactured by Preh. The touch-sensitive Control Buttons integrated into the steering wheel en­able drivers of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class to operate all func­tions of the instrument cluster and central display without taking their hands off the steering wheel.

Other winners include Korean Hyundam, which was awarded for top manufacturing standards and excellent processes in the development and production of fuel supply modules and fuel pumps as well as the German novem car interior design which received the prize for the cooperative development of innovative trim part surfaces in the interior. German firm Albert Handtmann Metallgusswerk & Co. KG was awarded for its long-standing successful collaboration in the area of die-cast components.

AI asked Michael Hafner, Director Active Safety, Daimler, whether autonomous driving is a trend or fad.

Hafner: For us, autonomous driving is not a question of “if”, but “when”. We expect that it will be possible to realize the first highly au­tomated driving systems in just a few years on certain types of roads, such as autobahns, and in suitable weather conditions. We have already installed a wide array of partially autonomous driving functions in our core model ranges like C, CLS and S-Class. In the new E-Class we even go one step further with our new DRIVE PILOT and Remote Parking Pilot.

AI: What safety issues need to be addressed?

Hafner: On the one hand the sensors and their ability to identify complex situations need to be improved further. On the other, the ability of the system intelligence to carry out instantaneous and reliable evaluation of the data followed by appropriate decision-making is increasing. With all these development we can envisage an extension of the assistance functions provided in a lot of situations. Our objective is to relieve the burden on drivers of monotonous driving tasks and highly complex driving situations. Safety – of our customers and all other road users – has top priority.

AI asked Christoph Hummel, President and CEO of Preh, what the winning of the Daimler AG Special Award mean for Preh?

Hummel: We understand the Daimler Special Award as not just as praise for our innovation, but also as an incentive for future projects. The touch control buttons integrated into the steering wheel switches permit drivers of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class to operate all functions of the instrument cluster and central display without taking their hands off the steering wheel. This breakthrough in terms of safety is due to a small technical revolution. This smart technology has not only won a Special Award for Preh as a suppli­er, but Daimler has also received recognition from the industry, with accolades such as the weConect Car HMI Award 2016.


AI: How closely do Preh and Daimler work together in creating new technologies?

Hummel: We have been a Tier 1 supplier to Daimler since 2005, but this project is probably the best example of the close col­laboration between Daimler und Preh. It started out as an advanced development technology scouting project. The requirements for se­ries application were very high, but the cooperation in the proj­ect team can be best characterized by mutual inspiration and a very effective approach.

AI: How do you see your relationship evolving in the future?

Hummel: While our biggest customers at present are other German and US OEMs, I am confident that the new project and the Special Award open up new business opportunities with Daimler for us.

AI: Tell us about your new R&D Center in Bad, Neustadt.

Hummel: To ensure that Preh’s Bad Neus­tadt headquarters remain the driving force of in­novation last year we embarked on an investment pro­gram totaling EUR 12.5 million. The new Preh research and development center is under construction on a base area of 2,350 m² and a gross floor area of around 8,200 m². With its attractive modern architecture it will be home to around 400 high-tech work­places. Planned completion is in the fourth quarter of 2016.

AI: In a time of digitalization speed and innovation are critical – how do you aim to keep with that?

Hummel: We have developed several center console concepts on our own to show possible paths for the future. One big aim of Preh is to combine smartphone operating practices with the safety requirements of vehicle handling. For example, last year we were able to present a new scalable actuator technology which in­cludes haptic feedback from touchscreens and touchpads. It makes it possible for drivers to get similar feedback to what they would experience if pressing a standard button. This year we took a further step into the future through the acquisition of TechniSat Automotive.

AI: What impact will the purchase have on the car info­tainment and navigation space?

Hummel: Navigation and connectivity features developed by Preh Car Connect will supplement Preh center consoles. This creates new opportunities for the comprehensive networking of vehicles and brings us a decisive step closer to our vision of a “Connected Car”. The acquisition is a perfect combination of technological competencies.

AI: How do you see the future of driverless car, and Preh’s role in its progress?

Hummel: I am sure that there is a future for the driverless car, but I cannot imagine a solution where the human driver is totally excluded. Because of my deep passion for cars and driving nice cars I don’t like to imagine a car without steering wheel and driver controls. AI: How are you finding the challenge of succeeding Dr. Michael Roesnick as head of the company.

Hummel: The emergence of Preh as a global player for automotive electronics and automation solutions is connect­ed indissolubly with the name Dr. Michael Roesnick. I feel committed to his achievements and will ensure a high degree of continuity both for our customers and staff. However, I naturally also set standards of my own, and together with my management colleagues will keep devel oping Preh in order to meet new opportunities and challenges. At the moment the main challenge is the integration of the former TechniSat Automotive Unit – now Preh Car Connect – into our group. Together, the Preh com­panies now account for annual turnover of more than one billion Euros, and have competencies in the fields of HMI, Car Infotainment, Connectivity and Telematics as well as automa­tion. I really like the challenge of forming a global system sup­plier for HMI systems and the connectivity of vehicles

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