Stuttgart. The glove compartment is the home of the new dimension of safety for the front passenger: in the place of this small stowage compartment, the engineers from Mercedes-Benz were able to accommodate an airbag – one of the new features presented by the brand at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main from 10 to 20 September 1987. This innovation represented an important building block to complement the established scope of restraint systems at Mercedes-Benz, the driver’s airbag and the belt tensioner. With the additional airbag for the passenger, the Stuttgart brand provided a form of occupant protection that at the time was not offered by any other manufacturer worldwide.
The front-passenger airbag presented 30 years ago at the IAA also became available from September 1988 in the model series 124 – which subsequently became the E-Class. It soon proved its worth in terms of passive safety as an effective protective device and, in August of 1994, became part of the standard specification of many Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, along with head restraints in the rear. From the very beginning the manufacturer emphasised that the front-passenger airbag was there to supplement the protective effect of the three-point seat belt, but was in no way to be seen as a substitute for it. At that point wearing seat belts had been compulsory since 1976, with fines imposed for any failure to comply from 1984 on.