Car Briefs -- Mercedes Engineers Bow To Cup Holder

It may just be a cup holder to you, but it is a monument to change at Mercedes-Benz.

For years, American customers and dealers have been asking Mercedes-Benz for cup holders. The engineering elite at Mercedes-Benz held their ground. Cup holders were not needed, they said, because drivers should not be distracted by anything, let alone a beverage, while cruising the autobahn at more than 100 miles an hour.

The other side of the argument was that drivers in America were not speeding along at anywhere near 120 miles an hour. For most American commuters, that coffee, nestled in a cup holder, was one of the high points of the trip to work.

And so Mercedes' new `C' class cars, which will go on sale Nov. 18, will have cup holders.

Although the introduction of a cup holder may seem like a minor issue, it is not. This is an unconditional surrender by the top engineers at Mercedes-Benz on that and a number of other issues to make the company more competitive in today's marketplace. And Mercedes-Benz is making clear it intends to compete, no holds barred.


On an expansive field 500 miles southwest of Tokyo stands a new Toyota Motor Corp. car assembly plant trying to set a surprising trend - low technology.

According to the company - Japan's market leader and most profitable carmaker - the days of big robots are over.

To the delight of thrifty Toyota management, people-oriented plants are proving cheaper to run than the highly automated types once universally deemed the wave of the future.

And by deliberately generating more job satisfaction, the plants also produce higher quality cars, executives say.

Rivals Nissan and Mazda - in which Ford holds 25 percent - boast highly automated and sophisticated plants. They are in deep financial troubles; Toyota is emerging a clear winner.


Mazda has developed a new collision-avoidance system that can detect vehicles and pedestrians in front of the car and brake automatically.

The new laser scanner, developed jointly with NEC Corp., can be used whether the road is straight or curved and is the first such device that can detect pedestrians, Mazda said.

Mazda plans to introduce the system commercially by the end of the decade.

The scanner, which is attached to the car's front grill, will detect an approaching car at a distance of about 155 yards, and pedestrians at 65 yards, Mazda says.

Car Briefs copy provided by Times news services