Recognition for the Mercedes-Benz GLE: IIHS awards top '2018 TSP+' rating for our SUV's safety. The last model year of the current GLE also received the coveted 'TSP+' rating from the IIHS Insurance Institute in the US. An interview with Prof. Schöneburg (Head of Vehicle Safety, Durability, Corrosion Protection) and Axel Heix (Director of Product Projects for SUVs).
The M-Class and subsequently the GLE have received top IIHS ratings since the market launch with MY2012. The new TSP+ category was introduced with the driver-slide small overlap crash in 2014.
Mr. Heix, what role do the rating results play in the US?
Axel Heix: Mercedes-Benz has offered luxury vehicles with outstandingly high levels of quality and safety for many decades. Our customers know that we design the cars with real accidents in mind but also want to have this confirmed by the safety ratings. I believe that a TSP+ is and will remain an important selling point for a GLE. And I'm proud to say that we have achieved this rating for many years.
But it must take a lot of work to keep this rating?
Axel Heix: That's right. A vehicle's life cycle is much longer than the lifespan of rating requirements, which in some cases change every year. For us this means that we continuously develop our product, right up to the last model year. For the 2018 TSP+, we even had to modify the headlamps. This shows how important customer requirements are to us.
Prof. Schöneburg, you're the vehicle safety expert: what does wanting to keep a TSP+ for so many years mean? And why did the lights need adapting?
Rodolfo Schöneburg: Let me put it this way: When it comes to vehicle safety, I always talk about "real-life safety" because we get our vehicles fit for the road based on our accident research findings. But we also want to achieve the best possible results in the latest rating tests. And that involves a lot of effort.
The IIHS rating is calculated based on a complex formula that takes account of not only crash safety, but also accident-avoidance systems such as emergency braking systems and more - fully in keeping with our integral safety approach. The headlamps for model year 2018 had to meet extremely market-specific requirements concerning not only illumination of the road, but also effects on oncoming traffic. Hardware adaptations were necessary to achieve the best rating here. We also showed how well the vehicle performs in the passenger-side small overlap front. As you can see, safety is a discipline in which many people involved work together over the entire model cycle.
You're responsible for areas like accident safety. What's your quick take on whether the car of the future will still have airbags?
Rodolfo Schöneburg: I'm certain that we'll continue to rely on accident prevention systems in the long term. On the one hand, vehicle automation is a great opportunity to take a major step forward in terms of safety. At the same time, however, it makes our work more complex. Because those who no longer drive themselves may want to do other things in the car instead. And here the challenge is to further develop the restraint systems so that they also offer the protection our customers expect in new seat positions. I therefore expect accident-safety work to get more difficult rather than more easy.
Mr. Heix, the last question goes to you. What's the next step for the GLE?
Axel Heix: The new model is already in the starting blocks. It will offer a wealth of innovations. I'm already looking forward to its unveiling before the world's media in the fall. Until then I can't say very much except: Driving and experiencing the new GLE is worth it. Stay tuned!