Currently reading: Former Mercedes-Benz boss Jurgen Hubbert dies aged 81
The ex-chairman was in charge when Mercedes-Benz launched the ground-breaking A-Class
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2 mins read
15 January 2021

Jürgen Hubbert, the former chairman of Mercedes-Benz and the man who helped launch the A-Class and M Class, has died at the age of 81.

The firm’s current chairman, Ola Källenius, paid tribute: “Jürgen Hubbert was Mr Mercedes. With integrity, innovative spirit and great success, he shaped Mercedes-Benz forever.

"Under his responsibility, a historic product offensive was launched with groundbreaking vehicles, such as the A-Class and M-Class. As a leader, he was able to integrate and motivate his teams with a passion for technology and the highest standards for himself. He is forever assured of the appreciation of the entire Mercedes family.”

Hubbert joined Mercedes in 1965 as a mechanical engineer, rising up the ranks to become chairman in 1989, a role he was to fill for 15 years.

It was with Hubbert as chairman that Mercedes pushed into completely new segments, creating the market niches for which it has since become famous. At the same time, he managed to double its worldwide sales.

Hubbert was in charge when the ground-breaking A Class was launched in 1997, complete with its clever ‘sandwich’ floor, a revolutionary solution to increasingly stringent crash-testing. It was also Hubbert who helped steer the company through the fallout when the car failed the now infamous ‘elk test’ that same year.

But his influence stretched beyond this car. He was also instrumental in getting the M-Class to market and was behind the decision to build the car in the US, its key market.

It was also Hubbert who later admitted that the M-Class wasn’t up to the quality expected of a Mercedes. He also created the CLK and helped to launch Smart as a brand.

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Lanehogger 15 January 2021

It was when Hubbert was chairman when Mercedes shifted away from their core ethos of quality and engineering excellence and instead focused on expanding their model range, quantity and profits, some of the effects of which damaged the company’s reputation. While some of the cars were dynamically excellent the build, quality and reliability of many of the generation of Mercedes that started with the first A Class and ended with the W211 E Class were truly woeful while the first signs of cost cutting being seen on the W210 E Class in 1995. Then there was the dropping of Mercedes’ great inline sixes in favour of a (still decent) modular V6 to save costs. And in that period was the infamous elk test and first Smart car which further reinforced the view that Mercedes had well and truly shifted away from engineering excellence and quality. In some respects it could be argued that Mercedes’ reputation still hasn’t quite fully recovered since those dark years.

streaky 16 January 2021

A colleague had an early A Class as a company car; the interior quality was really dreadful, I couldn't believe I was sitting in a car with a three pointed star on the steering wheel.  Any Ford or Vauxhall at the time was far better.  That A Class later ran up some big repair bills because its unique mechanical layout made access to certain components more difficult.  After the W210 rust/quality debacle, I've never forgiven Mercedes' cynicism in reducing its quality and resting on its past laurels.

Lanehogger 16 January 2021
streaky wrote:

A colleague had an early A Class as a company car; the interior quality was really dreadful, I couldn't believe I was sitting in a car with a three pointed star on the steering wheel.  Any Ford or Vauxhall at the time was far better.  That A Class later ran up some big repair bills because its unique mechanical layout made access to certain components more difficult.  After the W210 rust/quality debacle, I've never forgiven Mercedes' cynicism in reducing its quality and resting on its past laurels.

 

I drove the 1st generation A Class when it was launched in the UK and to this day it remains the worst car I've driven. Awful handing, restless ride and lifeless steering. The clutchless gearbox was notchy and the engine rather poor too. The interior quality was awful too. The only positive was impressive space and versatility. A clever concept completely undone by shoddiness.  

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