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Recall of Flagship S-Class Undermines Mercedes-Benz’s Fame
Defects Found in Automated Steering Functions
Recall of Flagship S-Class Undermines Mercedes-Benz’s Fame
  • By Michael Herh
  • March 6, 2019, 10:45
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An S-Class sedan from Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz Korea will issue a recall of its flagship luxury sedan S-Class cars.

Mercedes-Benz Korea has found defects in automated steering functions of S-Class models. It reported the defects to the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) and is drawing up a report on how it would correct the problems, said sources in the ministry and the automotive industry on March 5.

Mercedes-Benz Korea is preparing to announce the cause of the defects, models to be recalled, and the size of the recall. The ministry will give Mercedes-Benz Korea a recall order based on the report to be submitted by the automaker. S-Class models were recalled in Korea about two years ago when a transmission wiring fault was found in October 2016.

The recall of S-Class models in Korea follows a decision by Mercedes-Benz in the United States to recall about 6,200 cars with faulty automated steering functions. In some of S-Class models sold by Mercedes-Benz, automated steering functions, such as lane centering and lane keeping assist, continued to work even when the driver's hands were off the wheel.

Automated steering functions are based on advanced driver-assistance systems (ADASs) which enable cars to recognize lanes using radars and light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems. A car with the level 2 semi-autonomous driving functions can control the distance from the car in front, recognize fluent curves and cruise autonomously. But it does not have the ability to cope with steep corners or suddenly interfering cars. An alarm goes off when the driver gets his or her hand off the steering wheel for a certain period of time and if the drive does not get his or her hands on the steering wheel, the car halts its semi-autonomous drive mode.

However, the automated steering function of some S-Class models continued to work without noticing that the driver got his or her hands off the steering wheel for a long time. This problem was caused by a flaw in vehicles’ software that manages autonomous drive and sensors that detect drivers’ moves inside the vehicles.

Models with defective automated steering functions were S-Class models produced from February 2017 to August 2018 (based on the U.S. market). They include the 2018 and 2019 S63 AMG and S450 4 Matic and S560 4Matic, the 2018 S560 Coupé and Maybach S560 and the 2018 S63 AMG 4Matic Coupe and Convertible (Cabriolet).

The Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association said that between 2017 and 2018, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class sold a total of 13,683 units in Korea – 6,665 in 2017 and 7,018 in 2018. Among them, models recalled in the United States total 6,397 units -- 1,685 units sold in 2017 and 4,712 units sold in 2018. The main target is the S450 4Matic (2,740 units sold from 2017 to 2018) and the S52 4Matic (2,263 units during the same span).

Industry watchers say that 6,000 to 13,000 S-Class cars are likely to be recalled this time.