When Mercedes-Benz launched the so-called Baby Benz in 1982, Werner Breitschwerdts reputation was on the line.
The 190, the forerunner to the C class, was Mercedes smallest and most affordable car. As chief engineer, Breitschwerdt took a great risk championing a car some felt would not match the quality and performance of the companys larger sedans.
A lot of people said you cant make such a small car like that as a Mercedes, but we showed we could do it, and it was a very good Mercedes, the Stuttgart native told Automotive News Europe.
A year after the 190 was launched Breitschwerdt was promoted to CEO.
High demand for the car helped Mercedes boost its global unit sales to 604,447 from 481,845 during Breitschwerdts tenure as CEO from 1983-1987.
The success of the car is one of the reasons that Breitschwerdt, 81, has earned a place in the European Automotive Hall of Fame.
In March, he will join three other Class of 2009 inductees in the Hall: Ferrucio Lamborghini, prolific independent sports car designer Giovanni Michelotti, and Hub van Doorne, the founder of car and truck maker DAF.