Mercedes Benz: A Consumer Reports

Gunnar Heinrich
by Gunnar Heinrich
mercedes benz a consumer reports

Mercedes-Benz makes a lot of cars for customers with serious aspirations. Just out of college, looking for bit of respect? C-Class. Mid-level manager aspiring to the next rung on the corporate ladder? Take an E. Mr. Got it All looking for a set of wheels for the woman who isn't his wife? CLK cabriolet. And a car for the woman who is? The SL. The clear link in all this is badge snobbery. In fact, if class consciousness has a symbol, it's a three-pointed star. So what's one of the brand's current campaigns for their $96k CL500? "Mercedes-Benz: For Everyone." Right.

Post-modern irony aside, it's true. Mercedes-Benz wants to sell a car in every automotive niche. (Not to mention the ones they invent.) Mercedes can get away with it too. If Mercedes produced the equivalent of Europe's proletarian Ford Ka and slapped a MB badge on it, the automotive press would slam it and tens of thousands star struck buyers would go straight out and buy one. Oh wait, they did. Mercifully, US buyers were spared the rolling atrocity known as the A-Class. That said, it may be only a matter of time before the entirely inappropriate B-Class finds its way into trendy loft livers' assigned parking spaces. Badge snobbery über alles.

Consider the Gelaendewagen, or, since Mercedes-Benz of North America started importing them directly, the G500 and G55 AMG. The G-Wagen has been guzzling its way over the world's peaks and valleys since the 1970s. The $81,000 truck– and it is a truck in spite of the price– has passed the previous record holder to become the longest running Mercedes-Benz chassis. The G-Wagen beat-out the iconic R107 body SL convertible. Could you imagine Mercedes-Benz peddling the R129 SL of the 90's today? I can. The company only retired the convertible a little over three years ago.

Back track for a moment. Mercedes-Benz is a fantastically successful car company. Like Porsche, they've consistently beaten their previous year's U.S. sales records for more than a decade. On the face of it, attributing Mercedes-Benz's profits to a simple combination of name and emblem is disingenuous. There's a great deal of substance behind the company's name and its star.

Mercedes-Benz rose from the ashes of WWII to build the best cars in the world, for more than five decades. They weren't always pretty– the 1970s were a particularly troubled time in their design department-– but the company achieved a quality standard that no other manufacturer could touch. Cars like the stalwart 300SD stand the test of time. Literally. Today, that bullet-proof German quality is little more than vehicular folklore. Engineered like no other car in the world? That's fine by Lexus, as Toyota's luxury brand builds far better cars than DaimlerChrysler's Benz. MB vs. BMW or Audi? No contest.

It is difficult to identify the exact moment when Mercedes craftsmanship went south. Then again, you could say the moment arrived in 1993, when Daimler-Benz built a plant in Alabama to manufacture the M-Class SUV. Soccer moms took a second mortgage on the house just to roll-up at practice in a new ML320. When the corporate volk back in Stuttgart realized that US buyers were snapping-up the new M-Class despite failed transmissions and electrical problems, the pressure was off. Why use high-cost components or materials that car buyers can't see and don't care about? Brand extension and "de-contenting" kept MB's hugely profitable juggernaut moving forward.

A decade on and the German marque ranks lowest among the luxury brands in reliability. The latest issue of Consumer Reports highlights this fact. Reliability is listed as "below average," "poor," and "below par," for the C, E, and S-Class, respectively. "Poor reliability" and "Mercedes-Benz" in the same sentence? Where is "vault-like" and "dependable"? It's been more than a decade since any of the automotive press used those terms to describe a Benz and I'm hard pressed to see their return anytime in the near future. The chintzy E350, vault-like? I don't think so. The all new ML500 dependable? I'll believe when I see it. There is nothing about the current Mercedes-Benz lineup – save the SL – that warrants that kind of praise from the media.

Like the rest of western society, Mercedes-Benz is living on credit. It's been paying nothing towards the debt to its own name. There comes a point when the line expires and the loan is called. When that happens, the customers walk away and into the ready arms of the competition that has been making reliable, sound, solid automobiles all the while. It is not just General Motors and Ford that the Japanese are keen on passing. If Mercedes-Benz wants to continue its run, it must stop making cars "for everyone" and manufacture only the best. That is, after all, what everyone wants.

[Gunnar Heinrich runs]

Join the conversation
  • Dave M. I think I last listened to AM after 9/11, but the talk radio cesspool took its toll on my mental health. Prior to that I last listened to AM in the '70s....I'm a 20-year XM subscriber; Apple Music also has me in its grip. For traffic conditions I use Waze, which I've found to be highly reliable.
  • Art Vandelay Install shortwave so I can get numbers stations
  • THX1136 Radio World has been talking about this for a few years now. The public perception of AM has done much to malign it. As some have pointed out, there are parts of the country that work well with AM, especially when considering range. Yes indeed, there are options. To me that's what this is more about. The circuitry for AM is probably all on one chip now - or close to it. It cannot be a matter of cost - even at the inflated manufacturer asking price. Making what appears to be an arbitrary decision and reducing choice seems unwise in the area of radio in vehicles.Some have commented that they never listen to AM 'so I'm not missing it'. I'm guessing that many folks don't use ALL the features their many devices offer. Yet, they are still there for those occasions when one wants to avail themselves. Bottom line for me is it should still be an available option for the folks out there that, for whatever reason, want to access AM radio. Side note: Top 40 radio on AM was where all the music I listened to as a youth (55 years ago) came from, there were few (if any) FM stations at that time that carried the format. FM was mostly classical and talk and wasn't ubiquitously available in a portable form - AM was. FYI, the last I knew all stations - AM & FM - still have to have an EAS system as part of their broadcast chain. It's tested by the FCC at least once a year and all stations must be able to pass along the alert messages or face action from the FCC to correct the situation.
  • Robert I don't know why they don't use a knob for the gear shifter on the console like in the Ford Fusion. Takes up a lot less space than a shifter on the console and looks a lot better than a stalk on the steering column.
  • David S. "Stellantis" a woke company showing off evil ICE trucks!?! Bernie Sanders is having a stroke!!