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Old 03-02-2007, 03:09 PM   #1
Scooby Guru
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Join Date: Mar 2001
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Default Auto study's big loser: Mercedes

Auto study's big loser: Mercedes


F orget all this stuff about Japanese metal once again dominating Consumer Reports and selected American models like Ford's Fusion and GM's Cadillac CTS making some serious moves into the upper echelons.

All that we mostly know, and some of it is mildly encouraging.

For the real head-slapper, look at the bottom, the very bottom of the Consumer Reports' 2007 Annual Auto Issue, beneath Ford, beneath GM, beneath VW, the Koreans and even lowly Chrysler, now living in automotive limbo as its owners decide whether it's worth keeping.

Look at which brand the editors of America's most respected, if occasionally flawed, consumers' magazine say they could not recommend at all -- not its bellwether sedan, not its roadster, not its American-made SUV, not even its flagship S-Class, ostensibly a statement about who's behind the wheel.

The big loser, the big fat zero staring out from the page, is Mercedes-Benz, the three-pointed star said to bespeak precision, class and engineering excellence, reputed to be the distillation of German automotive culture. Worse, the editors, in a quip that should land like a Scud missile in Stuttgart, say a 1998 Lexus LS400 had fewer problems and was more reliable than the 2006 Mercedes ML500.

Come again? An 8-year-old, warmed-over Toyota is preferable to a new Mercedes? This from the guys who can't get their parent company, DaimlerChrysler AG, to move fast enough to dump their weak sister, Chrysler? They're presiding over a brand that, at least according to one influential assessment, is even less dependable than the Chryslers they so love to trash?

Perceptions skewered

Talk about an inconvenient truth. It's not supposed to work this way for the masters of Mercedes, whose company gained $10 billion in market value over just five trading days last month at the suggestion of Chrysler getting the heave-ho and Mercedes going its merry way, solo.

Yes, Mercedes had a few lean years earlier in the decade, finishing way down the charts in influential German quality surveys. But the official spin is that they've since recovered, according to ADAC surveys and a company spokeswoman.

They're making money again -- $3.2 billion operating profit last year. Mercedes still boasts the high loyalty rates among luxury-car owners. And sales in the all-important U.S. market have grown in each of the past 13 years to 248,000 vehicles.

All of which means diddly to Consumer Reports or J.D. Power, which endeavor to ascertain how cars and trucks actually are, not how their makers want them to be or how their status-conscious owners believe them to be.

Weighing myth, reality

Which explains why Mercedes bosses with names like Hubbert and Cordes had, on occasion, basically said the participants in these nasty little American surveys on quality and reliability wouldn't know either if they fell on their head.

Doesn't matter what they or their engineers think. These assessments are so valued by many American buyers, so touted by dealers, so long as the brands they sell fared well, exactly because the surveys are so often reviled by folks who don't do so well in them.

They have authenticity, which may be more than can be said for Mercedes and its boast about "Leadership: 120 years later, the legend continues." Would that be legend -- or myth?
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Old 03-02-2007, 04:38 PM   #2
Calamity Jesus
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Member#: 44501
Join Date: Oct 2003
Chapter/Region: NWIC
Location: Yeah, well, you know
that 's, like, your
alternate facts, man.


I do hope MB wakes up. I've never heard a good thing about a gasoline powered MB from a quality/repair standpoint.

I only have my own experiences with MB, which isn't much.
My grandfather owned turbo-diesel MBs from a time shortly after WWII ended up until his death in 2002. He put over 500,000 miles on his 1987 car and took meticulous care of it. Unfortunately, the drivetrain was the only part of the car that worked flawlessly after those miles and 13 years. Still.. a good record that most other cars would be hard to match. I've heard of other late 80's E-Class cars not fairing so well at all. Yes, they're nice cars, but are apparently plagued by electrical gremlins and the gasoline motors have poor reliability in comparison to BMWs of the same era.

Unfortunately his MY2000 E300D has not been so great. My aunt now takes care of it and keeps up with the scheduled maintenance, but still.. every 3 months, another sensor fails and there's another expensive repair bill. My grandmother doesn't want to sell the car.. so they put up with it and have it fixed. On the plus side, the doors open and close like expensive bank vaults.. the ignition key system is awesome and the car is very nice to drive and ride in on long trips... but you can't really trust it as a daily driver and it isn't any fun on a back-road like a BMW is.

I think MB has some great engineering minds and I think they consistently push the automatic transmission technology to new levels... but like most German engineers, they seem to spend too much time starting from scratch and creating all new problems along the way, rather than sticking with a proven platform and engineering higher quality components along it's lifetime.

For instance.. compare the Japanese and American car manufacturers with the Germans. BMW, Mercedes and VAG have nearly as many proprietary engine designs as they have chassis codes (VW being much less guilty of this than Audi). Meanwhile, the platform intensive Japanese and American companies have three or four times as many chassis codes as engine designs.
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