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Old 07-17-2002, 07:10 PM
JimSmith JimSmith is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Old Lyme, Connecticut
Posts: 3,596
I hate to always go against public opinion, but I have found the dealership is made of people, and usually the management is tuned in to making customers happy so they come back. So, if you get to know the people, understand they did not design or build the car, but are there to service it you usually make out ok. It is when you approach the people that are going to service you and your vehicle with an attitude that says I paid $60,000 for this car and it better be perfect that I believe you can make the situation less pleasant than it has to be. My personal relationship with people at the dealership I use goes back a few decades, to the previous owners, and I have generally never had a wholly bad experience. Yes, I have had some stuff fail, and I did have a 350SD that suffered the bad engine syndrome/failure sequence of events, but ultimately they have done their best to make up for the shortcomings of the product, if there were any.

The 1999 C230 Kompressor Sport we had was rock solid reliable for 45,000 miles, the duration of the lease. Not a single component failed. And, when my daughter ran over a truck tire tread that shed in front of her on the Mass Pike the soundproofing above the transmission was apparently knocked loose. When I noticed the extra noise during hard turns I pointed it out to the dealer. The dealership fixed it under warranty. No questions asked. If the car had been a manual transmission version, we would still have it. I hated the automatic, but I hate all automatics.

The same has been true for my 1998 E300D Turbodiesel. The mass air sensor failed while I was on a business trip and I called the dealer to ask if it was something that needed replacement right away. They said no, but I should do it sooner rather than later, and if I brought the car in that day before 2 PM they would fix it while I waited. I did and they did. No antics. I have had to replace both headlight bulbs and a sidemarker lamp bulb. Every other complaint I have had (and I have looked for things to get done before the warranty expires) have been addressed quickly, and with the feeling they enjoyed the opportunity to succeed at making the customer happier with his vehicle.

I have a great relationship with the guys in the parts department, as I have been a good customer for more than twenty years. I buy my Delvac 1 and Mobil 1 0W-40 oil as an adder to their bulk oil purchases, saving me a load of money on oil changes. I believe giving them the opportunity to make me happy is the key. I am never pleased to have to buy a part, but rather than blame them for the part failure or come in with an attitude, I have managed to let them know getting me the part when I need it is doing their job well. I believe everyone likes to do their job well, and they respond favorably to doing business under conditions where their efforts are appreciated and they get to succeed.

I tend to agree other makes of automobile have improved to the point where Mercedes-Benz's edge in reliability and durability has become hard to distinguish. This is expecially true in the first year of ownership. I am betting the 15th through 25th year are going to be better than the competition.

I am also alarmed that Mercedes-Benz, rather than devote resources to continue to ratchet the reliability and durability up a few more notches, has been lured into competing with these other makers on the basis of integrating electronic and electrically powered conveniences. Maybe we are to blame for that as we are the variable in the equation that defines the market by the cars we choose, and we seem to choose cars with more convenience features even though we all know they detract from reliability and durability.

In any case I see the obsession with electronics and electrical goodies distracting the Mercedes-Benz management from the chore of maintaining ultimate reliabilty and durability. This is an especially poor situation when the development schedules and dollars are fixed. Maintaining or improving the legendary reliability and durability gets less of the budget in terms of time and money for every added gizmo that makes it into production. If reliability and durability fall to the point where customers no longer associate Mercedes-Benz with these qualities there will be a general rejection of the automaker's products in the market. Afterall, the GPS system and the infinitely adjustable seats will not get you to your destination if the engine won't start.

As for materials, I think the discussion is like one of style. No one can be right or wrong. New materials are available today for application to every part in the car. Some choices will be good ones and some may not. But overall I doubt any selections have been made to purposely cheapen either appearance or quality just because of cost. For example, I believe some material selections are made to comply with plastic recycling schemes that are invoked in European and other markets. To comply with this initiative Mercedes-Benz may have experienced some constraints on the variety of materials available to select from the day the selection was made. In other cases someone may have made a selection based on styling likes and preferences (I have yet to see a Designo package I think has any semblance of good taste, for example) which others find unappealing.

I have a W123, W124 and W210 in various stages of being used up. Based on experience to date, the W123 is clearly the most durable, and will die when Nature reclaims the body. Unfortunately that is not too far off. Rustproofing on the W124 is much better, and I therefore anticipate the body lasting much longer on that car - but the more electric nature of it's equipment leads me to predict things like the seats, windows, climate controls and so on will be its slow downfall. The W210 is too new to make a real prediction, other than that the seat cushions seem to be heading to a failure before the car gets 100k miles on it, and the shocks seem to be asking to be replaced in hard driving at just over 51,000 miles. Overall I am not impressed with W210's rack and pinion steering and would much prefer the feel of the recirculating ball system on the W123 or W124. We will see how durable it is as time goes on.

Things change, and if Mercedes did not take a leadership role in the changes being implemented in the auto industry it would become uninteresting over time just because of that. Being a leader, out in front on the design and manufacturing in the auto industry is a high risk position. While I do not agree with some of the choices, I do not find the guys at the dealership in my area to be the problem. Jim
1986 Euro 190E 2.3-16 (291,000 miles),
1998 E300D TurboDiesel, 231,000 miles -purchased with 45,000,
1988 300E 5-speed 252,000 miles,
1983 240D 4-speed, purchased w/136,000, now with 222,000 miles.
2009 ML320CDI Bluetec, 89,000 miles

1971 220D (250,000 miles plus, sold to father-in-law),
1975 240D (245,000 miles - died of body rot),
1991 350SD (176,560 miles, weakest Benz I have owned),
1999 C230 Sport (45,400 miles),
1982 240D (321,000 miles, put to sleep)

Last edited by JimSmith; 07-17-2002 at 07:51 PM.
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