JUST ABOUT ANYONE WHO HAS DRIVEN a Mercedes recently has experienced it: unintended sudden acceleration because of awkward placement of the cruise-control stalk left of the steering wheel.

A driver may think he is signaling to turn right, when inadvertently he has pushed the cruise control lever upward to the “accel” position, occasionally sending the vehicle bolting forward instead of slowing down to turn at an intersection. This could happen if the cruise control was on but not active.

With the all-new '12 M-Class cross/utility vehicle arriving in September, Mercedes has corrected the problem by placing the turn indicator at the 10 o'clock position and the cruise-control stalk at 8 o'clock. Until now, those placements were reversed in most Mercedes vehicles, triggering complaints.

The turn-indicator stalk, which also controls the windshield wipers and high-beam headlamps, is longer than the cruise-control lever, and Mercedes engineers are hopeful the new configuration will eliminate any confusion.

Bernie Glaser, general manager-product management for Mercedes-Benz USA, emphasizes the change in his presentation of the new M-Class to journalists in Missoula, MT.

“A lot of research has been done,” he says. “Customer feedback went into that decision, and the M-Class is the first Mercedes where this has been changed. You will see that change in our philosophy here coming with launches of other new models.”

Jim Burch, assistant product manager for the M-Class and GLK CUV, says the market drove the new layout.

“The comments were that there was some confusion with the cruise control,” Burch says.