SHANGHAI - Daimler's A-Class concept car, which was unveiled in Shanghai Monday, has a range of infotainment features that the carmaker hopes will demonstrate its strengths in in-car information technology.
Mercedes, which suffered major electronics problems in some of its cars early in the last decade, has been conservative in its development of new infotainment systems. Competitors Audi and BMW have been much more aggressive in touting their car-connectivity and infotainment features.
With the A-Class concept, which is likely to be only slightly changed in its final version, Mercedes hopes to attract younger customers, who require connectivity both at home and in the car. And the carmaker believes that its new infotainment system reduces the risk of IT problems in its cars.
The A-Class concept shown in Shanghai features a slot in the middle console that fits an iPhone. When the phone is inserted, it is automatically synchronized with the car's COMAND multimedia system.
Daimler officials were particularly pleased with the broad range of smartphone features that will be available in the car. These include access to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as internet radio and email. All applications are displayed on a 17.8 cm display.
Because Daimler, contrary to its competitors, uses a back-end server to control all internet access to the car, it is also able to update software remotely. "We can manage the process," said Thomas Weber, Daimler's global head of r&d.
Johann Jungwirth, who heads Mercedes-Benz r&d in Palo Alto, California, said the new infotainment system is sufficiently decoupled from the rest of the vehicle to allow full upgrades should new technology need to be integrated. "We're in line with the electronics industry and can develop a new feature in six to 12 months," he said.
The A-Class concept also has Brake Assist Collision Prevention, a system designed to protect cars from rear-end collisions.
The new A-Class, which will go into production later this year will look very different from the slightly boxy older version. The new model has a long hood, a low silhouette and slim window areas, giving it a much more sporty appearance.
The car's front wheels are powered by a new 210hp four-cylinder 2 liter gasoline engine.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said at a press briefing that some variants of the new A Class may be produced in China but that no decision had been made. Daimler showed the concept on the eve of the Shanghai auto show.