Electronic brake flaw triggers worldwide Mercedes recall By DOUGLAS A. BOLDUC AND DIANA T. KURYLKO (08:52 May 17, 2004) Just weeks after a key consumer survey showed its quality is improving after several years of spotty performance, Mercedes-Benz last week took another hit to its reputation as a technology leader. The luxury-car arm of DaimlerChrysler AG said it is recalling 680,000 cars worldwide to check the electronic braking system that has failed on some E- and SL-class models. Mercedes estimated the recall will cost $30 million. The recall is for E-class sedans built after March 2002, E-class station wagons made after March 2003 and SL models built after October 2001. The glitch can cause the brake-by-wire system, which includes the antilock brakes, to fail. But the car can still be stopped because the backup hydraulic system kicks in automatically to activate the front brakes, according to Mercedes. The recall, which affects more than 143,000 cars in the United States, took American dealers and its U.S. subsidiary by surprise. A spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz USA LLC said the U.S. organization has received no reports of brake problems, but that all dealers were being notified. Mercedes-Benz says the fix takes about an hour and usually requires only new software. But in some cases, hardware may need to be repaired, the spokesman said. Mercedes-Benz USA said it is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the recall. The safety agency said last week that it had not received any complaints about the problem. The recall comes just as Mercedes was celebrating a sharp improvement in its scores on the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, which measures defects in the first 90 days of ownership. With 106 defects per 100 cars, the automaker rose to 10th on the widely reported survey, from 15th and 132 defects per 100 cars a year earlier. The latest problem suggests that Mercedes and its longtime technical partner, Robert Bosch GmbH, have not solved all of the electronics issues that have plagued the E class in recent years. Mercedes last year dumped Bosch as the supplier of its Comand integrated navigation, entertainment and telephone system because of problems that delayed its introduction in the United States on the new E class. Mercedes-Benz USA replaced 2,000 E-class sedans because it could not meet promises to retrofit the system onto customer vehicles. The braking system at issue, called Sensotronic Brake Control, was developed jointly by Mercedes and Bosch. But a Mercedes spokesman said that new vehicle ranges won't use Sensotronic because brake-by-wire has evolved since the system was developed. "Now, with better cost and the same performance, we do not need to have the same design," he said. Bosch may not be the supplier on the new systems. Bosch last week disputed reports in the German press that the braking system was introduced too quickly. Bosch said it will continue to produce the Sensotronic system, which also is installed on the $300,000-plus Maybach, the exotic SLR sports car that goes on sale this fall and next year's CLS four-door coupe.