We love the current A-Class, especially in the A 45 AMG guise, with its 355bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot and all-wheel drive traction. However, the baby Benz didn’t have it easy starting life nearly two decades ago. The first-generation W168 A-Class had elicited huge interest even before its global debut at the Frankfurt motor show in 1997. The fact that this was going to be the first front-wheel drive model from the Stuttgart carmaker, marking its foray into the compact class, led to a huge buzz surrounding its launch.
But the excitement didn’t last long for Mercedes, as a Swedish magazine put the A-Class to its ‘moose test’ or ‘elk test’, which is essentially a quick manoeuvre simulating a real-life situation where a driver dodges a moose on the road. The A-Class failed the test, and flipped over. Footage of the rollover was made public, and the news spread fast. But Mercedes thought it would be able to brush the issue under the carpet by just denying the problem and waiting it out.
However, more publications from around the world reported such failures, threatening to damage the car’s reputation and the brand’s image irreparably. Realising this, Mercedes-Benz decided to recall all the cars sold until then, and ordered suspension of sales until the issue was rectified. Electronic stability control was retrofitted to these cars and made standard equipment in all A-Class variants. This, along with some tweaks to the suspension solved the problem, and helped the model survive the fiasco, and even spawned successors. But that brief period of disrepute after the A-Class’s launch was a low point in Mercedes-Benz’s history.