Mercedes A160

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So here’s something that won’t be too interesting to anyone looking from Europe, but it’s quite strange for America. The Mercedes A-Class is the entry-level Mercedes in most markets. It’s a five-door hatch, shorter than a Mini Cooper and and costing roughly $30,000. Mercedes declined to bring it, or the slightly larger B-Class, to the American market for fear of diluting the brand, and also because premium subcompacts never really sell here anyway (see 3-Series hatch, C-Class hatch). However, that didn’t stop this diplomat from personally bringing one over. It’s likely the number of other A-Classes driving around in the US can be counted on one hand. That’s because it’s essentially impossible to legally bring foreign-market cars into the US. The only way to do it and not risk the Feds seizing your car and throwing you in jail (or at least court) is to spend months and many many many thousands of dollars proving to the government that the car meets US emission and crash test standards. And by the way, that involves buying a few identical cars and crashing them into various walls.

However, this person, a German consul member according to this plate-decoding site , happened upon the other way to bring in an unapproved car: diplomatic immunity. Diplomats don’t have to register their car at the DMV and they can drive whatever they want. That still doesn’t quite explain why someone went through the trouble of spending a ton of money to ship this car over, especially when no service shop here will know what to do with it if something goes wrong. Living in Boston, I see a lot of consulate plates, but they’ve all been on unremarkable US-market cars except this one.

I saw this car around Boston a few times in 2009-2010; these pictures were taken at a supermarket. I haven’t seen it for a couple years now, so they’ve probably moved on at this point either to a new car or hopefully just to a new posting so others can marvel at their determination to drive a tiny little Mercedes. A few other interesting things about this car: it is not even a late-model car. It looks like it’s from 2002-2003, so they didn’t even go through all of that trouble to bring over a new Mercedes. Also, you’ll notice it’s actually right-hand drive, so it’s weirdly probably a UK-market car. Just another way this car is a totally reasonable choice to drive around Boston over, say, every other car ever!