A few comments, observations and some ramblings .....
With the “average” new car price above $26,000 that has over 3 miles of wiring, today’s cars are not the same as ten years ago. $26,000 is not even “near luxury” any more. As we all know, each year the “average complexity” of a car increases. The new 7 series BMWs have over 35 computers or more accurately, microprocessors that are networked. Fiber optic networks with data bus backbones are the only way to manage the volume of information contained within some new cars. It is the only way to support the abundance of functions and features that are provided.
As they say, in a previous life, I work for a German manufacturer. It is true that the importing countries determine the model mixes and options content, but it is the manufacturer that says what they are going to build.
The competition in the auto industry has broadened by more makes, brands, classes and features. It is almost impossible to find a car without AC. The features, functions and complexity must coexist.
The German auto industry has pioneered many of the systems and features commonly found on most cars today. Often their origins were mechanical with electronic assistance. Porsche’s 959 comes to mind.
In answer to when Mercedes (and other high-end luxury car owners) replace their vehicles, typically before the warranty is over OR before the lease term is over. A little over 50% of new Mercedes owners fall into this category. The higher the average price of a car the more often this is true. It is simply a function of disposable income and the inconvenience of a higher mileage/ potentially increasingly unreliable car. From the last information I read by the way, Mercedes and BMW owners do keep their cars longer than other luxury makes …. Part of the remaining 50% of owners.
Leasing has enabled more buyers into luxury cars than ever before. Leasing also has created a bloated used luxury market. Never before have their been so many off-lease vehicles in dealer’s lots. These inventories are expanding as well. It is uncommon for a used luxury car being sold by a new car dealership to not have both special financing AND warranties.
The luxury car market is driven by features enabled by a price point. Drive by wire, brake by wire, adaptive suspensions, anti-roll over devices, multi-zoned climate controls and GPS all can be supplied because of a supplier enabled industry. That industry is electronics. Microprocessors, semiconductors, sensors etc have all been supplied by the electronics industry at price points that enable these additional features to be offered by carmakers at an affordable combined price.
There is a limit, rationally; to how many different features any car can offer. Short of flying, cars are not going to get all THAT much faster, brake that much better, cool, entertain or coddle the passengers much more than is already provided. Yes, there will always be improvements to systems with smart and clever devices or attributes, but there is a limit. There will be a new interior, a thoughtfully implemented drive system, a clever suspension adaptation, but we are talking incremental refinements to a finite set of performance.
In my opinion, especially with Mercedes, for each model year, the finalization of the model run brings about the “best” of that series. We have all seen this discussed many times. The bugs have been worked out and corrected and the car seems perfected just as it is discontinued. This leaves owners with an incredibly strong perceived value. Don’t under estimate this, it is very important, in my opinion, to Mercedes. It must be since it is repeated over and over again, model series by model series.
I think a lot of us on this forum are psychologically imprinted with the concept of “the way they were made” and justifiably so. I remember the first Mercedes I drove extensively was a 1967 200. Four-cylinder, no AC or power windows, four doors and four speed. I drove the hell out of it and get this- I just serviced it….. I just serviced it. No problems ever. None. Tires, brake pads, one set of rotors. No shocks, no radiators, no alternators etc. Just serviced it.
My wish for Mercedes is to simplify. They are not going to de-content the cars, they have to stay feature competitive. My dream is for every system that is created and designed by Mercedes, that the engineers go back and re-design it again to reduce complexity and improve reliability. That this becomes their new corporate culture. My wish is that this becomes their obsession. That each part, which is a member of a system that provides a feature, is over analyzed to reduce complexity while providing outstanding reliability. If this were the engineering culture within Mercedes, they could charge whatever they want for a new car.
Historically, Mercedes were always sold at a premium but in return the buyer received a car that was “Engineered like no other car”:
-I would gladly trade a GPS system for an AC evaporator that didn’t fail, ever.
-I would quickly give up a multi-zoned climate control system for a radiator whose neck didn’t crack and fail.
-I would trade the self-closing doors for ones that have insulated sound deadening mats between the plastic vapor covers and the door panels.
-I would quickly surrender a complex anti-roll/dive electronic suspension system for the 5-link where the rubber components and shock absorbers have a minimum life of 200k miles.
-I’d love to exchange the brake by wire system for pads and rotors that last commonly over 100k miles.
-Hey, I will even take a dipstick over an electronic oil level sensor any day.
Sorry this is too long - My point is the value proposition: Mercedes historically has always prospered when there was a strong value.
'03 E320 Wagon-Sold
'95 E320 Wagon-Went to Ex
'93 190E 2.6-Wrecked
'91 300E-Went to Ex
'65 911 Coupe (#302580)