STUTTGART - The A-class isn't saved yet, but it has a chance thanks to a massive effort by Daimler-Benz.
Executives and engineers gave up their sleep, and tempers were often short, but it appears that the company stayed with a team approach instead of looking for someone to blame.
But Daimler will re-examine the way it engineers cars.
'We will have a look at our current processes and we will optimize them in areas that are required,' said Chairman Juergen Schrempp.
The company has formed a 'crisis management task force' of eight specialists plucked from different departments. The group is headed by Volker Stauch, director of worldwide service. Members were picked for their ability to keep their nerve.
Ulrich Bruhnke, development manager for the A-class and C-class, led the engineering team that worked around the clock to redesign the rear suspension.
Others pushed themselves, too. Daimler's chief spokesman, Wolfgang Inhester, said he worked 57 hours without a break at one point during the crisis.
Tension began building the day after the car rolled over in a 21 October test by a Swedish magazine.
Daimler's board members and most leading automotive journalists were in Tokyo for the auto show when the news arrived. 'It was a little garbled at first,' said Inhester. 'There was no chance to react properly at the first moment.'
An emergency board meeting took place on 22 October in Tokyo. It included Schrempp, car chief Juergen Hubbert, and Dieter Zetsche, head of sales and marketing. In the weeks that followed, board meetings were held daily in Stuttgart.
Daimler's public reaction went in three stages: A denial of any basic flaw; a DM100 million ($57 million) recall and refitting with an electronic stability bandage, and an additional DM200 million, 12-week halt in deliveries to lower the body, redesign the suspension and widen the track.
Orders dropped as car magazines across Europe ran their own A-class rollover tests.
'The new orders coming in do not in any way bear out our expectations for the coming year,' said Bernhard Denk, marketing director of distributor Mercedes-Benz Austria.
But since Daimler announced on 11 November that it would stop deliveries, support has been swinging over to the company.
'Already a change is seen regarding the looks given the car,' said Alexander Martinovsky, a Mercedes dealer in Vienna and Slovakia. 'Quite a lot of people don't greet us with A-class jokes but with a tap on the shoulder, to carry on.'
Inside Daimler, emotions ranged from shock and speechlessness to total anger, said Inhester. He said Hubbert immediately understood what would happen.
'It is like in a Greek drama,' Hubbert told colleagues. 'You can do whatever you want, the ending is always clear.'
Even Hubbert may not have expected how far the case would escalate. Daimler-Benz delayed its own tests as engineers flew around Europe in three planes looking for the right test conditions. Meanwhile, publications were testing the car and finding it unstable.
On 4 November, at the Mercedes-Benz test track at Malmsheim, Germany, an A-class rolled over while board member Helmut Petri, head of vehicle development, watched.
The A-class is a new kind of Mercedes, outside Daimler's traditional luxury sedan domain. Like the M-class sport-utility and Micro Compact Car's Smart it has grown from a blank sheet of paper within five years. The new models have thrust Daimler into unfamiliar marketing, retailing and engineering territory.
Hubbert said last week that Daimler tested the M-class on the moose test and it passed. He said the Smart car has been tested, and will be again. He said Schrempp will test the Smart, but perhaps not in the moose test. 'This is not his job.'
Schrempp has proved to be a tough corporate politician. He displaced the popular Helmut Werner when Mercedes-Benz AG was disbanded. But on the A-class crisis, he was not seeking blood.
'Everyone has done a marvelous job in the last several years,' he told them in a closed meeting. 'No heads will be cut off.'
Beatrix Israel, Georg Auer, Wim Oude Weernink, Greg Kable, Knut Moberg, Stephane Farhi and Luca Ciferri contributed to this article.