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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
14-year old Matthew James was born without a left hand. He dreamed of having a sophisticated bionic hand, but his family couldn’t afford the £30,000. But a chance meeting with Ross Brawn gave Matthew a life-changing experience: a new hand, for free.
And Matthew didn’t have to find out any uncomfortable truths about his father, either. He wrote to Ross Brawn, the man in charge of the Mercedes GP Petronas team, after Brawn visited his school in Berkshire, England. Matthew asked the F1 team to help his family raise the money, and even offered to have the hand sponsored by Mercedes-Benz to compensate.
A member of the team reached out to Touch Bionics, a Scottish company specializing in advanced medical devices. They waived the cost of installing the hand and training Matthew on how to use it, while Mercedes was kind enough to cover the rest. And the hand is advanced enough for an F1 team: it features five individual motors, allowing each finger to move independently. The F1 team and Touch Bionics have agreed to share technology that could benefit both organizations.
Matthew, who also received a free tour of the Mercedes factory, is already getting used to his new hand—he can already open jars and make tea—but laments the fact that now, he has to do more chores.
[Source: BBC News]
While 2009 was a tumultuous year for automakers, the worldwide economic crisis pushed the auto industry into the mainstream automotive media’s spotlight, making big automotive news stories even bigger. And while new products continued to be introduced, they garnered possibly even more attention that ever before. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the Top 10 biggest stories of 2009 for an automaker that didn’t recoil, but continued on, unveiling an all-new version of one of its most important models, delivering a new exotic car to market, promising an electric car in the future… and making some big changes in its motorsports program. That automaker is Mercedes-Benz.
#10 Mercedes Goes Green With New Hybrids
Slow to adapt hybrid technology, German automakers began to take on the Japanese luxury hybrids in 2009. Mercedes launched two important hybrid models, the S400 Hybrid and the ML450 Hybrid. The S400 Hybrid was the first Mercedes hybrid to go on sale and is also the first mass production automobile to use a lithium-ion battery. Priced at $87,950 it uses an electric motor and 3.5-liter gasoline V6 to produce 295-hp, while getting mileage of 19/26 mpg – an improvement of 26 percent over the S550 in the city. Despite its high-tech battery pack, the S400 Hybrid is a mild-hybrid, which limits its fuel economy.
The second hybrid model from Mercedes is the ML450 Hybrid 4MATIC. A lease-only model, for either 36 or 60 months, at either $659 or $549 per month, the ML450 is the first two-mode hybrid (like the Toyota Prius) from Mercedes. The ML450 uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine and two electric motors to make 335-hp and 381 ft-lbs of torque. Unlike the S400 Hybrid, it will be able to operate exclusively on electric power for short periods of time. Its fuel economy is rated at 21/24 mpg (city/highway), which is roughly the same as the ML350 Bluetec diesel at 18/25 mpg. This is also a 46 percent improvement over the fuel economy rating of the similarly-powerful ML550.
The next step for Mercedes in the field of hybrids comes with the Vision S500 Plug-In Hybrid, which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show and foreshadows a plug-in hybrid version of the next generation S-Class. Thanks to a direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 60-hp/184 ft-lb electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack, the car is capable of getting an amazing 73.5 mpg! Possibly more shocking is that the car doesn’t sacrifice performance, with a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds. Additionally, the electric motor will be able to power the car emissions-free for 18 miles.
He’s back! That’s right, seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher will make his return to the pinnacle of motorsports next year, driving for Mercedes-Benz. The German will join fellow countryman Nico Rosberg in representing Mercedes on the grid, starting March 12th at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“It is a new chapter in my racing career and I am really looking forward to working with my old friend Ross Brawn and my companions from my days with the Mercedes Junior Programme,” said Schumacher in an interview. “I am convinced that together we will be involved in the fight for the Formula One World Championship next year and I am already looking forward to getting back onto the race track. For me, this partnership closes the circle. Mercedes supported me for so many years when I began my Formula One career and now I can hopefully give something back to the brand with the star.”
Schumacher returns to the sport after a planned comeback last year failed. He had intended to race in place of injured teammate Filipe Massa, but injuries sustained during a motorcycle accident prevented that from happening. Schumacher now says he is fully recovered.
Schumacher retired from Formula 1 in 2006 after seven world championships and 91 overall wins. At the first race of the season, Schumacher will be 41, almost double the age of many just entering the sport.
The Mercedes team that he joins is actually the Brawn GP team (headed former Ferrari and Benetton technical director Ross Brawn), which was purchased by Mercedes in the off-season, after clinching the championship in its first year. The connection with Brawn has always been a strong one – and a successful one. Along with Schumacher’s five wins at Ferrari under the leadership of Brawn, his two other World Championships came at Benetton with Brawn at the helm.
When asked about Schumacher’s accomplishments, Norbert Haug, Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsports said that, “Michael has more of everything than every other driver.”
As rumored, Mercedes-Benz has decided to part ways with McLaren after 15 years as partners in Formula 1, opting instead to buy a majority stake in the Brawn GP team. The new team, named Mercedes Grand Prix, will run in the 2010 F1 season, keeping much of the Brawn team, including team principal Ross Brawn.
The Brawn GP team entered the 2009 Formula One World Championship as serious underdogs, using the underperforming Honda cars. And yet, the team managed to clinch both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championships.
“We look back on 15 successful years of great collaboration with McLaren; in that time, we won four world-championship titles and finished ten times as runner-up in the drivers’ and constructors’ rankings,” siad Norbert Haug, VP of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “Since the first victory in the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, the modern Silver Arrows have achieved a total of 60 victories in 223 races to ensure that our brand symbol, the star, stands for the greatest successes in Formula 1. We thank our partner and will continue to work with McLaren based on an excellent partnership.”
Daimler AG boss Dr. Dieter Zetsche thanked McLaren stating that, “For the benefit of both Mercedes and McLaren, we will continue our partnership cooperation in future. We will be rivals on-track but, off-track, we will cooperate with McLaren and the other teams in order to create the best possible product for spectators worldwide.”
The partnership between the two companies is much more strained than that, however, as Mercedes has also announced it will let McLaren buy back the 40 percent stake it now holds. That transaction should be completed by 2011, fully dissolving the Mercedes McLaren business relationship.
Official release after the jump: