The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a 4-door SUV with light off-road capability, first offered in 1997, and built in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, USA, at the same time as its competitor, the Infiniti QX4. It marked a shift at Mercedes -Benz in becoming a global player; while it had plants outside Germany before, they merely built facsimiles of German models. In contrast, the M-Class was conceived with the American market in mind and built at an American factory. Despite early negative press about quality control, the M-Class became a huge sales success in the United States. In fact, only the C-Class and E-Class sell better in the US.
At launch, the M-Class was a technological ’tour de force’. It was the first SUV to feature stability control, a system designed to detect loss of control and instantaneously intervene with selective braking to bring the vehicle back on its intended course. This system is now hailed by safety experts, and studies have shown stability control and systems like it are capable of reducing single vehicle crashes by up to 30 percent. Furthermore, the M-Class boasted front and side-impact airbags with advanced occupant detection for the front passenger seat, which, combined with Mercedes’ legendary safety structure, earned the M-Class the highest marks in insurance industry crash tests.