By on July 7, 2011

Answer quickly, without pondering: Does Mercedes-Benz make reliable automobiles? For most of us, the immediate answer is “No.” Perhaps it’s because we’ve owned post-1995 Benzes, perhaps it’s because we’ve heard horror stories from our neighbor’s first-gen ML or W210 E-Class, perhaps it’s because it’s easy to see that recent M-B products simply don’t seem to hold up or stick around the way the old ones did.

Now imagine how your friends and family would answer the same question. Again, the “nays” are probably going to outnumber the “yays”. Thirty years ago, everybody thought that Mercedes-Benz built the best automobiles in the world. Today, very few people do. It’s common knowledge now that the three-pointed star has been affixed to plenty of cars which were underdeveloped at best and utter garbage at worst. You can’t really trust a Mercedes-Benz, can you? Not like you can trust a Lexus.

There’s only one problem with the above statements: there is a group of people who have learned, firsthand, how durable, reliable, and flat-out awesome a Nineties Benz can be. You know them, I know them…

Did you ever expect that the infamous W140 S-Class, a car so heavy that it became infamous for flat-spotting tires in showrooms, would win a 24-hour race? What about a six-cylinder W124? True, these two vehicles are considered to be from the “good old days” before the despicable W210 E-class, Alabama-built ML, and milk-jug-interior W220 S-Class, but we’re still talking about old Benzes laboring around a racetrack for a full day under some fairly oppressive conditions.

Why not do a Web campaign talking about how good, and how reliable, an old Mercedes-Benz can be? Why not let people out there know that it’s possible to take an S-Class with six-figure mileage on it and put the throttle to the floor for a solid day? If Dr. Z and company are afraid that people will associate their precious brand with rusted, damaged garbage… well, that ship sailed around the time they stopped building inline-six gasoline engines. It couldn’t hurt to take a chance.

Germans being Germans, the logical outcome of such a campaign would be to purchase an existing LeMons team and run it under the Silver Arrows banner. I think that such a course of action would be interesting, and if they used a 1999 E320, it would even be courageous. I estimate that a W210 could even win LeMons, assuming that the budget for the team and mechanics roughly equaled that of their so-far-unsuccessful Formula One effort. Perhaps Herr Schumacher himself could reprise his role as a high-speed Benz taxi driver around MSR Houston or Nelson Ledges.

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, a LeMons 500SL could launch itself into the crowd, kill like fifty people, and cause the company to quit racing for another few decades. Wait! LeMons races never have any spectators! Everything will go better than expected! And believe me, it isn’t like Mercedes-Benz hasn’t crapped all over their brand before

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120 Comments on “A Modest Proposal: Mercedes-Benz Should Make Some Advertising Lemonade...”


  • avatar
    Flybrian

    The skyrocketing use of ‘first’ technologies combined with high-mileage examples hitting high-$$$-down buy-here-pay-here lots and being owned by people who have no business driving anything more advanced than an Escort is to blame for this sullied reputation, IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The skyrocketing use of ‘first’ technologies…

      This is it, right here.

      The Germans could set the benchmark when technology demands were modest and product cycles were lengthy. But they can’t keep up with the high-tech/ <6-year development cycles that Lexus introduced to the luxury car market.

      The company car market in Europe probably also has something to do with it. Many of their customers are short-term lessees, not long-term owners. They don't care about long-term reliability because they don't need to. Americans have more reason to care, although we do have enough of a market for leased luxury cars to help the Germans to get a bit of a pass that the lower-end cars can't get.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        We are overlooking the fact that people who can afford to buy Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Audi, generally don’t care about reliability or gas mileage, or longevity, in their vehicles. One of my neighbors in his seventies recently replaced his ’96 Crown Vic with a 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Fourmatic. He didn’t even blink an eye when he wrote out the check for the full amount. Is he even aware of all the first-technologies his E350 has? I doubt it. The only thing he cares about is that it gets him and his wife to their doctor appointments throughout the state. And so far there have been no quality or warranty issues that required a return to the dealership, unlike his previous (domestic-brand) cars. And that is a good thing, especially for a senior citizen who has never seen a Mercedes ad.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        Exactly. Look at how long the W124 chassis was on the market. It was one of the last luxury cars (not bothering to verify this but if anyone can provide evidence otherwise, I’m interested) that lacked keyless entry. But they were built like no other car in the world. The demands of consumers who NEED a touchscreen in everything they interact with much favors the Japanese makers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        We are overlooking the fact that people who can afford to buy Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Audi, generally don’t care about reliability or gas mileage, or longevity, in their vehicles.

        A lot of these cars are leased, not purchased:

        Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW are going after lease business more assertively. BMW’s lease penetration in May was the highest since March 2010, at about 47 percent, up three percentage points from April. Mercedes-Benz’s lease penetration was flat in May but also is at the 47-percent level. Its C-Class is one of the most heavily leased vehicles, with 62-percent lease penetration for the model in May, compared with its rival BMW model, the 3 Series, with 57-percent lease penetration.

        http://www.autoobserver.com/2011/06/mercedes-bmw-race-for-us-luxury-crown.html

        One of my neighbors in his seventies recently replaced his ’96 Crown Vic with a 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Fourmatic. He didn’t even blink an eye when he wrote out the check for the full amount.

        That’s one guy’s story. A lot of these cars are leased or financed, just like most other cars on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Pch101, I had no idea that most cars in the US are leased or financed instead of purchased by individuals. At least that is not the case at the dealerships owned by my brothers and their partners. And while Mercedes, BMW and other luxury brands are actively pursuing a strategy that increases their leased-vehicle sales, I would be interested in seeing the hard sales figures, hard to do in itself since lease vehicles are also considered to have been sold to the lease-holding companies. Since I have never leased and have no plans to ever lease, I can only rely on the info I get when talking to my brothers who have told me that most sales on their lots are to individuals and not lease-holding companies. And leasing a car is an option if the lessee can qualify, but otherwise there are several financing option, depending on the purchaser’s credit rating and score. To lease is much more difficult than to purchase. It is especially difficult to lease for old people or those without an established credit rating. But that can vary from state to state and region to region, I suppose.

        Did you know that a sale to an individual financed through a bank or credit union is different from a sale financed by the manufacturer’s financing arm? The difference is that the dealership has no vested interest after receiving payment in full from a bank or credit union, but retains interest if that vehicle is sold through the manufacturer’s financing arm because they arranged the sale, and they get a kickback.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I had no idea that most cars in the US are leased or financed instead of purchased by individuals.

        According to a 2010 survey by Kelley Blue Book of potential car buyers, 20% of those who planned to buy new cars and 42% of those who planned to buy used cars claimed that they intended to pay with cash. Which, of course, means that 80% of the new car buyers and 58% of the used car buyers were planning on taking on debt.

        http://www.autonews.com/article/20100721/FINANCE_AND_INSURANCE/100729992/1447

        The major automakers have captive finance arms for a reason — most consumers could not possibly buy a car if they weren’t able to borrow the money. The car business revolves around debt.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        I think that there is a difference between financing with the manufacturer’s finance arm and financing with a bank or credit union that is totally independent of the manufacturer. Ditto with leasing through the manufacturer or leasing with an independent leasing firm. I could be wrong, but it would seem to me that there are more independent lenders with no connection to the manufacturers.

        I can see where Mercedes, BMW and the other luxury brands may want to cultivate a society of buyers who lease or finance through them, but I cannot see how they could ever replace the hundreds of banks and credit unions who lend individuals money to buy their cars, often outright and without liens.

        The name of the game is to sell vehicles and generate a source of income for the manufacturers. Besides, Mercedes, BMW and the other luxury brands are a very narrow slice of the market. People who choose Mercedes aspire to own them.

        I don’t see the great unwashed masses suddenly aspiring to own a Mercedes-Benz or other luxury brands, no matter how much advertising effort they put into marketing them. Many of them cannot even make it from payday to payday.

      • 0 avatar
        eldard

        “The Germans could set the benchmark when technology demands were modest and product cycles were lengthy. But they can’t keep up with the high-tech/ <6-year development cycles that Lexus introduced to the luxury car market."

        True. The electro-wizards at Toyota humiliated Daimler-Benz after the discontinuation of the W124. DB rushed cars with lots of electronic bells and whistles to try to halt the advance of Lexus. And failed. Miserably.

        The W140 sold only half of the W126's sales during its entire run because of Lexus and Lexus alone.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I could be wrong, but it would seem to me that there are more independent lenders with no connection to the manufacturers.

        You are wrong. If you look at a list of the largest auto finance companies in the US, you’ll find that six out of ten are tied to automakers:

        1. Ally Financial
        2. Toyota Financial Services
        3. Chase Auto Finance
        4. Ford Motor Credit Co.
        5. Wells Fargo Dealer Services
        6. Bank of America Dealer Financial Services
        7. American Honda Finance Corp.
        8. BMW Financial Services
        9. Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.
        10. Santander Consumer USA

        http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8431150.htm

        The name of the game is to sell vehicles and generate a source of income for the manufacturers

        That’s part of the game. Not all of it. Financing is also a profit center, plus it helps to drive more sales.

        I don’t see the great unwashed masses suddenly aspiring to own a Mercedes-Benz or other luxury brands

        The washed and well-scrubbed primarily use debt and leasing to acquire new cars, including the luxury makes. I can see that you don’t want to believe this, but your one neighbor doesn’t change one iota any of the facts that I have presented here. Most new car buyers don’t buy all-cash.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        It’s not a matter of whether I want to believe it or not. What you are asking us all to believe is that of the millions of cars sold in the US each year most of them are financed, but I have difficulty seeing where 6 out of the top 10 lenders in the US hold the majority of the notes, when there are thousands of lenders in America, many who do not hold liens to the cars they finance for their ‘personal-loan’ borrowers.

        My one neighbor is not the only one who buys his cars with a personal check. I financed all of my cars through the local credit union for about 90 days and then pay off that ‘personal loan’. No liens. It keeps my credit rating active and it gives me a credit history. I don’t have a mortgage since I built my house over a period of several years, expanding as I could afford it, until I achieved my 4800sq ft all brick.

        I have friends in the financial district in Manhattan, and also in Fairfax, VA, who work for major banks, many that I went to Graduate school with, and none of them have ever financed through GMAC/Ally or any other financing arm of a car maker, using their annual bonus to buy that new car, some which were Mercedes-Benz, or financing through the bank or credit union, which have the lower rates for personal loans.

        And even in the area where I reside now, the credit union finances new cars for 2.99% APR or 2% of what they pay you on your share account, and the major banks finance new cars at 3.49% APR, as a personal loan, less with a lien attached.

        Now, I can understand that the car makers want to be a part of this lucrative business for qualified buyers, but I fail to see how Mercedes-Benz can lure people who need to finance one of their cars into a loan that nets them a profit. It isn’t like Mercedes is an everyman’s car desired by all. Your assumptions and posits are way too optimistic for me to swallow hook, line and sinker. I question the veracity of such broad assumptions. Where do you get your facts? Inquiring minds want to know because it is interesting to learn this.

        But you may be right. I have never financed with one of the top six, or the top ten for that matter. So it may be me that requires enlightenment. Thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        What you are asking us all to believe is that of the millions of cars sold in the US each year most of them are financed

        I’m not asking you to “believe” it. It’s a fact.

        I’ve presented data here that makes it obviously clear that the vast majority of cars are moved with some sort of lease or car loan. It’s absolutely undeniable. The only way that you can think otherwise is to ignore facts, and to cling to beliefs that are simply untrue and inaccurate.

        I financed all of my cars through the local credit union for about 90 days and then pay off that ‘personal loan’.

        I’ve never had a car payment in all of my life. What in the hell does that have to do with the data, which indicates that most people don’t do what I do?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Obviously, if you never had a car payment in your life then you, also, never financed. Or never bought a new car. So you, like many others, must be part of this minority that doesn’t finance.

        In any case, I’ll keep your premise under advisement. I just got off the phone with one of my brothers who sells new cars for a living and at their dealerships located in three different states people who finance through ToMoCo, Hyundai’s HFC or Buick/GMC’s Ally, either do so by choice for a number of personal reasons like fixed incomes, OR they have difficulty getting a loan from a bank, finance company or a credit union at a preferred rate, even with a lien on the car. They certainly don’t finance with the manufacturer because of the lower APR.

        Vehicles that are financed with private financing like banks and credit unions are handled as outright sales while vehicles financed through the manufacturers continue to pay the dealership a percentage of each monthly payment made, as long as the loan does not default.

        Just FYI, since you never had a car payment.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Obviously, if you never had a car payment in your life then you, also, never financed.

        Which, again, has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the fact that the vast majority of new car buyers use a loan or a lease, instead of paying cash.

        I can see that you’re one of those types who has real trouble separating anecdotes and personal experience from data. Just because you have a neighbor or a friend who does X doesn’t mean that everyone else is just like your neighbor or your friend. Anecdotes are not data, particularly when those anecdotes are exceptions to the rule,

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        My comments dealt solely with the topic of this thread and why I cannot fathom how a stepped up marketing and advertising campaign to make some advertising lemonade would make more income for Mercedes if, as you say most of their cars are leased or financed, Mercedes has to self-finance the leases and individual sales of their cars through their own financing arm.

        That would gain them a deferred income for the duration of each note or contract but not an immediate increase in working capital. Pretty soon Mercedes would run out of money to finance their daily operations and production because it would all be tied up in self-financing their leases and sales.

        Your data and facts are great, but you have to parse all that to see what it consists of. How is financing defined? Does it include third parties or just the financing arm of the manufacturer?

        Like I said earlier, even the dealerships define financing in at least two ways. The one most lucrative to them is to have the buyer finance through the manufacturer’s financing arm because they get a percentage of each payment.

        Mercedes has such a small slice of the overall market that they, too, should go where there is an existing high demand for their products – namely, Asia. I think a marketing and ad campaign in the US would be wasted money.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        My comments dealt solely with the topic of this thread and why I cannot fathom how a stepped up marketing and advertising campaign to make some advertising lemonade would make more income for Mercedes

        I’m pretty sure that Mr. Baruth is joking when he suggests that Mercedes improve its reputation by competing in LeMons (not LeMans.)

        Pretty soon Mercedes would run out of money to finance their daily operations and production because it would all be tied up in self-financing their leases and sales.

        Daimler earned €831 million in 2010 from financial services. It’s a profit center, and helped to improve sales on the automotive side of the business.

        Daimler Financial Services continued to implement its “Captive #1” strategic program during the year under review. The aims of this program include further improving customer and dealer satisfaction, boosting efficiency and profitability, and achieving sustainable growth. Due to the global economic and financial crisis, the division’s focus was on reducing costs and ensuring sufficient refinancing in 2009. However, sustainable profitable growth is now once again playing a greater role at Daimler Financial Services. This is especially true in the Chinese and Brazilian markets, and the scheduled launch of operations in India in 2011 promises to generate additional growth.

        http://ar2010.daimler.com/cms/en/divisions/daimer-financial-services

        I fail to see how Mercedes-Benz can lure people who need to finance one of their cars into a loan that nets them a profit.

        In many cases, they do what every other lender does — they lend money at a higher price than they pay for it.

        And sometimes they use it to move product that they can’t otherwise move. The automotive component of the income statement will be impacted by what happens on the financial side.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Mercedes still is a status-symbol brand, even in America. What you say about the impact on the FS is true. And as long as their cars sell in Asia and the Middle East, there may not be a need for a stepped up marketing and ad campaign for North America. They’ll have the increased sales, elsewhere.

        The people who choose Mercedes will continue to do so, and if Mercedes can make money by financing their cars for those who need financing, I say, good for them.

        I owned a 1972 220D Euro-spec (this is anecdotal) which I bought new at Shiphol, tax free, in 1972) and I thought it was a good, solid car. But the ownership experience did not convert me into a life-long Mercedes lover. If Mercedes wants to position itself as a top-quality brand again, it has to do more than a stepped up marketing and ad campaign. Like maybe buy-off JDP to raise their standing on the quality list.

        And I’m not sure that they can convince enough people in America to want to buy a Mercedes product. But if lucrative financing on their part increases sales, I say, go for it.

    • 0 avatar
      R.Fortier1796

      I have to agree with you here. I learned to drive on my dad’s W140 (a 1996 or 1997) with the V8. I remember the thing being built like a tank, and feeling safer in it than my mom’s ML. The ML had some issues (first year run), which MB and the dealership were always willing to take care of. It was eventually traded for a C class (W203 C320). She still hates the fact that she sold it, and hates her 2008 CTS. Last time I talked to her she was looking at getting rid of it for one of the new 3ers.

      On the Blue and White side, my E46 (which I put about 75k miles on in 3 years) never had any issues save for a screwed up oil pan (my fault, fixed by dealer on goodwill) and a tail light fuse problem, which was also fixed by the dealer at no cost.

      On the other hand, my first car, a new 2001 Toyota Rav4, was a substandard POS that hadmore issues than a maliase era domestic. My third car, a 2008 (GenWon, woot) Mazdaspeed3 was a total rattle trap after 15k miles, and right around 58k had to get a new engine, as it had bent a rod, which according to the tech at the dealership was a common problem with Mazda’s direct injection motors. The current car isan ’06 350Z. It had the engine replaced under warrenty by Nissan under the previous owner for the oil consumption issue, the transmission grinds going into 5th and 6th (a known issue, the only advice I can get is “get a new transmission”), and for the life of me I cannot seem to track down a squeak that is comming from my headliner.

      However, with the upgraded pads/rotors and Falken RT615s, it is pretty fun to drive. Not as much so as the E46 was but, and not as nice as the E46 was, but much better than the Mazda. That being said, I’m swinging by a dealer after work today to take a look see at a CPO’d 335i. Not that much cheaper than the current crop, but I like the N54 more than the N55.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      When I had Benzes, I got to know the mechanics pretty well (ugh) and the Old Men of the Shop all insisted it went to hell when the parts labels stopped saying things like “Bosch” and started saying things like “Denso”… And in their defense (though not in MB’s) it was never the real machinery that failed, it was the endless morass of sensors. My E’s were the only cars I’ve ever seen which had sensors to monitor the sensors. And sometimes those failed, too.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    How about Mercedes just accepting the fact that they have fallen, big time, just like Detroit did. The answer is the same. Recognize that you need to improve and just make your cars better each year. Stop waxing on about the glory days. That didn’t work for Cadillac, it won’t work for MB either. Chronic electronic failures and high dollar breakdowns are not the fault of the owners. The blame lies firmly on the steps of the manufacturer.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    biodegradable plastics and wiring harnesses…. what’s that about?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It isn’t easy being green. That was the same era when BMW launched the E36 by bragging about how they cut out most of the galvanized steel and started using biodegradable or easily-recycled materials throughout. It showed pretty quickly too.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    There is a whole line-up of new entry level MB’s coming soon. Hopefully this will separate themselves from the prune and Metamusal demographic. MBCA is wondering how they can win over new buyers as well.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    I have been told by a German engineer that US version Mercedesses are “cheap” versions of their European counterparts, and use cheaper parts. Is the issue with Mercedes in the USA simply a problem of Mercedes not getting the US versions of their cars right?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Sounds more like an answer given to europeans when the question is ‘why do we pay twice as much for half the power?’ They certainly had the biodgradable materials in Germany, advertised as if it were a feature.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Typical German company arrogance, and with little truth to it.

      Germany has been living on unjustified great engineering laurels for a long time.

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        I agree. If it wasn’t for the Japanese there would be 2 kinds of cars – cheap and nasty (read American) or expensive and conservative (read german). Japanese engineering is second to none and they taught the world efficient precision manufacturing. (True, based on ideas from an American but no-one here would listen to him.)

        People like to deride the Japanese cars as “soulless” but this is untrue and somewhat pungent. Every time you drive a car that is both affordable, durable and well engineered – regardless of the manufacturer – you can thank the Japanese. They made anything less unacceptable. And you can trust that the Germans resented it deeply.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @John Horner:

        “Germany has been living on unjustified great engineering laurels for a long time.”

        That’s a difficult blanket statement to make. Many German cars are absolutely superb (I’d rate the BMW 335 sedan as the best all-around car I’ve ever driven); others are, as you say, trading on history or the great top-line models in the lineup. Mercedes is definitely the worst violator in this regard. Why the hell would anyone buy a C-class for any reason besides impressing the neighbors? Beats me.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The 335i is a great example of superb German engineering as practiced today. BMW has been claiming to have resolved the HPFP problem for over three years now, but owners are still getting new fixes constantly, some even as good as what has failed in the past.
        https://www.facebook.com/pages/BMW-HPFP-Issues/124076830950014

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        @ CJinSD –

        I agree with you, and am full aware of the HPFP issues on the 335 and BMWs apparent inability to fix the issue, but just ask any 1999-2002/3 Honda Odyssey owner how many transmissions they’ve had in their car and you’ll find that every manufacturer has screwed the pooch on some subcomponent.

      • 0 avatar
        photog02

        @probert: I agree, except that you may want to thank W. Edwards Deming instead.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        hreardon,

        The 335i was supposed to be an example of a current German car that isn’t a complete piece of garbage, but the reality is it has a fundamental engineering flaw BMW hasn’t been able to address in 4 years of trying. The MK2 Odyssey transmission is the one go-to example for Honda bashers. Maybe you don’t see the distinction, but it is the difference between learning from experience and rationalizing a delusion. Germans make awfully engineered cars. Honda makes some of the best engineered cars. Period.

      • 0 avatar
        ze_happyMan

        Americans always talking about reliability but when I’m in the states I see at least 2 broken-down cars for every mile on interstate (where 98% of people drive worse than my grandmother).

        Maybe you are doing something wrong? Maybe you should establish a TÜV system?

        Plus: You can’t drive fast with Lexus/Honda/Mazda/Suzuki/Toyota garbage. Drive 100k miles with this crap on speeds atop of 120mph and you’ll see why these cars are nonsense to me.

        I will never drive something different than a Daimler. I currently have a S-Class (company car but can use it as much as I want) and a C-Class (also used by my offspring). I drive very much, last year about 50k km because I am commuting between Stuttgart and Munich. 2 Months ago I had TÜV with the S-Class. No complaints by the TÜV engineer. He asked me “you drive a lot of Autobahn, right?. Me “Yes how could you know?” – “Because exhaust gases data is excellent”

        Conclusion: driving a German car on American roads is like a Tiger in the zoo. Tigers live a lot longer in their natural habitat.

      • 0 avatar
        ze_happyMan

        “Germany has been living on unjustified great engineering laurels for a long time.”

        Dude you don’t come in touch with 90% of Made in Germany products because most of them are industrial goods. Go to China, open a factory for something outsourced from America and I guarantee you that you pay the extra bucks for Made in Germany

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ze happyman: I will certainly agree with you in that that statement that German cars are “poorly engineered junk” is nonsense. But, the fact remains that 2000s era MB products do not share the vault-like quality reputation they once had and once richly earned. There are many reasons, but MB excelled when the design motto was “build as we want it and price as required to be profitable.” Daimler had little experience in the build to a price point model and the first efforts at trying to do so were less than successful. And yes, big money was pulled out of interiors first. Maybe that is why Daimler insisted that the same thing be done to Chrysler products. In any event, I do disagree with the broken down car thing. Over many years of driving/commuting the amount of disabled cars found is far less then the old days. And total distance traveled has grown substantially. I certainly can’t enjoy the speeds you get to enjoy, but if you think steady state at 120 is hard on a car, try bumper to bumper hard on the gas/hard on the brake over frost heaved roads for 160K miles of driving. I’m willing to bet that is much harder on a vehicle than driving at the high speeds you quote.

        CJinSD is correct in that a Honda is one of the best engineered cars on the road. I don’t agree that the transmission issue was their only weak point. Since most here will gladly bring up post Malaise Era cars in their arguments, we could bring up the widespread camshaft failures and head gaskets that plagued 80s Civics and the across the board crappy A/C systems. But even with those, the Honda product was still better overall than most of the cars of the period. So Honda deserves the reputation they have; lets hope some of the very recent signs of slipping are recognized and corrected.

        The comment about industrial goods made in the USA being of poor quality is laughable. Not saying that the German items are not good, but just because America couldn’t compete in the price-sensitive consumer arena does not translate to cost no object goods. Take a look at who makes what in a hospital – American made equipment is the norm, not the exception.

      • 0 avatar
        ze_happyMan

        @ golden2husky

        You are absolutely right that some models of that era had very poor quality. This was because the DC marriage. Daimler indeed wanted a “marriage under equals” but only as long as the bride has nice and well-formed breasts. But then it turned out that the bride only wore a wonderbra. I’m from the industry and I know some insiders from Sindelfingen, you would be staggered if you would know about the amount of resources (manpower and $) sent over the great pot to Detroit. These resources were missed in the MB production. I know that it’s common practise here on this site to blame Daimler for everything, but let it be that’s not my point. But people don’t think enough because it only means that you know which model to avoid.

        About abrasion at high speeds – this wasn’t directed to gas / break. Your right it doesn’t make big differences here. Asides from situations when a crazy Dutch changes on left lane without some reasons. Once had a very hard panic stop from way over 200 because of such a tourist. I can tell you you start to feel uncomfortable when the ABS is interfering so hard that the S-Class becomes actually a little unstable at front and the seats go into crashing position. But it makes a huge difference how the car is geared and only German cars are geared for high speeds. You can drive fast with a Honda, but at much more rbp as with a merc. This means automatically that you have higher abrasion. And I don’t even start about suspension and antishock pads. If you go into a curve with 250km/h you can actually feel the suspension working. You can feel the tires slipping a little bit toward outside. But the car is still like on rails. The Asia car fan boys should experience this kind of driving before judging about how cars are engineered.

        About the other comment: Misunderstanding, I don’t wanted to say that industrial goods from USA have a poor quality.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        ze happyman,

        Tigers live ten to fifteen years in the wild, sixteen to twenty years in captivity. At least you’re consistent.

      • 0 avatar
        eldard

        “Japanese engineering is second to none and they taught the world efficient precision manufacturing.”

        Efficient, yes. But that’s about it. Japan is good at electronic wizardry and miniaturization only. And the Koreans are starting to take that away from them. Germany is still king of precision mechanicals. That’s why they export almost double that of Japan’s and they were beaten only recently by China on sheer volume.

      • 0 avatar
        ze_happyMan

        @ CJinSD

        Unfortunately for You TTAC is not a Tiger forum…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        ze_happyMan,

        You brought up tigers. Why use something to make a point that you obviously know nothing about? It is indicative that you don’t limit yourself to subjects you have a clue about, which is as true about cars as it is about tigers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I will never drive something different than a Daimler. I currently have a S-Class (company car but can use it as much as I want) and a C-Class (also used by my offspring).

        So the moral of the story is: If you are a Daimler employee whose car is maintained at the headquarters facility in Stuttgart and you get a new replacement car every two years, then it makes perfect sense to get a Mercedes.

        But if you actually have to pay for it yourself, pay for the maintenance, subject it to stop-and-go driving conditions and you don’t get to dump it for a new model every 24 months, then you might want to think twice.

        (Incidentally, this is similar to the experience of Detroit executives, who also have had an endless series of free cars to drive, which were also maintained by company employees. No wonder they don’t get it — they never get to experience ownership in the same way that their customers would, yet they have enough access to a car to fool themselves into believing that they do.)

      • 0 avatar
        ze_happyMan

        @ CJinSD

        Don’t be so serious about the god-damned Tigers. You are right they live longer in captivity but only because there are fare more Tigers in captivity than in wild today (which makes it to a statistical phenomena also). So the Tigers in captivity share a bigger genetic pool at reproduction witch happens under the guidance of international coordinated breeding programs for endangered species. In addition Tigers in wildlife are endangered by the erosion of their natural habitat. So the Tigers are an exception in general animals live a lot longer in their natural habitat than in captivity and that was all I wanted to say and you could have got that

      • 0 avatar
        ze_happyMan

        @ Pch101

        Sorry I don’t work for Daimler. Never said that. I work for supplier, a very big one you would know the name. And I don’t get a new S-Class every 2 years only when there is a new model / facelift. And of course if it would break down I would get a new one immediately, but that wasn’t the case till today and the car is heavily used. Also my private C-Class has 150k km now and there was never ever a single problem besides maintenance (which is expensive admittedly). And I don’t get the rant here about the C-Class, I love it, flat 6 C 350 CDI a great engine IMO

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      My friends who worked for various Chrysler and Dodge related companies during the bad old days of Daimler-Chrysler were always quick to point out that DC products were built with a very high percentage of “obsoleted” MB parts — and so were most US-model Benzes. That is probably the origin of your engineer’s comment.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    How pathetic is it that a Mercedes left over from when they were considered well-engineered cars winning LeMons seems like an accomplishment? It’s anti-climactic when an E30 or a Miata wins.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    What % of MB buyers know anything about LeMons (wasn’t it made by Pontiac?) or would care if a MB won?

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “milk-jug-interior”, on the HDPE-scale, is the MB above, or below the S197 Mustang’s door-panels? (Same graining, same sheen as a 1-gallon jug, different color though, but I swear I could almost smell curdled milk each time I looked at them…)

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    In related news, I watched the Transformers 3 movie this morning.

    The Maybach product placement was as painful to watch as it was obvious to spot.

  • avatar
    jmatthewhelm

    hey jack- i happen to have a 1999 e320 that could prolly be up to the task. you’ve got an expense account right? if not, i hear steven lang is “the millionaire next door”.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    it must the “export” quality. If it’s for local comsumption, it only has to beat the local quality, and in the nineties local quality in the USA was not the high point of the automotive universe.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I disagree completely with the idea that Mercedes cars are crap. The top of the line cars – the S-class and SL-class, and the AMG models – are still incredible; it’s the volume models that have turned to crap. The number one major violator is the C-Class, which is thoroughly outclassed in every way – looks, finish, performance, handling, quality – by the BMW 3 series and Infiniti G. The E-class is only slightly less mediocre. Those bread-and-butter models are trading on the name of the more expensive cars on the same showroom floor. Can you say the same about an entry level BMW, Audi or Infiniti?

    I’d say they need to revitalize the BOTTOM of the batting order. Make some stunning entry-level models, bring some new blood into the showrooms.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Love to agree.. I know two people with S classes and they are lemons to say the least.. Repeat fixes for suspension (air ride) and electronics (dash-related). To boot, I also know someone with an ML bought new that has been anything but reliable. My .02

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The C-Class is an easy to car to rag on when you look skin deep. Mercedes biggest problem is marketing their cars. The C-Class is actually a pretty solid 3 series competitor, and is more reliable. You can just look at the price discrepancy for a used MB product and an similar BMW, and there has to be a reason for why the Benz holds it’s value better than the so called best all round car you can buy. I have noticed that that the MB products are also less fussy over maintenance than the BMW or VW products. A Mercedes won’t self destruct if you use coolant bought a Wal-Mart for example.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    MB turned to crap almost at the exact time of the introduction of Lexus. This is not a coincidence.

    Which of the MB trannys had fiber-optic cable, into which fluid would leak and travel up to damage the ECU? I heard about that while I was having my 300SDL’s trans replaced about 8 years ago..

    (300SDL just ticked over 430k mi, and is in good enough repair to last at least long enough to see a Passat diesel get power seats with memory, or the Kia Optima Hybrid to launch in my area.. Or maybe a C-MAX plugin..)

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      It’s not fiber optic cable, just a regular wiring connector that runs to the trans control module. It does amaze me that they haven’t been able to find a fix for this over the years. Finally they just gave up with the 7 speed auto and installed the module into the trans and made it resistant to trans fluid.

  • avatar
    kkop

    When I moved to the US 13 years ago, I was very surprised at the questionable quality reputation that MB had here. Back then, and still today, MB has a stellar reputation for longevity in the European countries I am familiar with, while Lexus and similar brands live low-volume niche lives.

    To say that MB doesn’t need to care about long term/high mileage quality because they’re all leased is bogus: they are still the vehicle of choice for most taxi companies, who put serious mileage on them, and would have no qualms about dropping them for a different brand if the quality wasn’t there anymore.

    Having joined the ranks of Americans now, and knowing them a little better, I’d say the main problems over here in contrast to for instance western Europe, are that regular maintenance is considered optional no matter how expensive the car, and mechanics have turned into parts swappers instead of finders and fixers.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Well, if you have to use the old and stinky tactic of blaming the owners, consider that the Lexus owners are not better off. If MB even remotely wants to build a good car, why not implement the same systems that tolerate user abuse the way Lexus (or the old MB) does?

  • avatar
    william442

    Our 1999 C43 is still going strong after twelve years, and we expect many more. The C 230, and ML 320 are long gone due to a myriad of problems.
    The worst being the attitude of the service departments we used. Everything from failure to make repairs to ignoring problems. We gave up.
    The AMG is serviced privately.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    After participating with MB subsidiary MTU on a diesel engine program, I would have to say that Germans are clueless on how to complete engineering projects on time, within budget, and to specification. They are more lucky than talented.

  • avatar
    SMIA1948

    Reputation follows reality with a lag. There is nothing that Mercedes can do to recover its reputation for reliability other than to start building reliable cars. I had a 2004 SL55 AMG and it was in the shop almost every week. I sold it when the warranty was up.

  • avatar
    tced2

    No one has mentioned the former volume division..er partner…Chrysler. Diamler ran it for ten years – not an insignificant amount of time – under none other than the current head Dieter S. What happened?

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      It was a fricking disaster from day one, but how is that relevant?

      • 0 avatar
        tced2

        Dieter S was the head of Chrysler and is now the head of Diamler. Same guy was in charge of “the disaster from day one”.
        Diamler-Chrysler was a merger of equals (direct quote from management). They were one company.
        Chrysler was the volume division of Mercedes. Other companies put out quality product at the same price point as Chrysler. Mercedes has shown to be incompetent with volume operations. Heck, their “engineered like no other car in the world weren’t’ very good. Their cars should be unquentionably superior for what they charge.

  • avatar
    MOSullivan

    It took more than one thing to do the damage. M-B quality hit the skids in the 90s after the company decided to (1) expand production and use its reputation to go down market and put a premium car in every market segment, (2) revamp its high cost manufacturing to become a cost efficient company, (3)cease designing over-engineered cars and take “surplus” engineering out of them, (4) distract senior management and waste capital by buying into Chrysler and Mitsubishi to go global and (5) move manufacturing out of Germany to escape the risk inherent in having all manufacturing in a single currency zone. In my view (3) was the most important thing.

    There were reasons for M-B doing what it did. The recession of 1990-91 and the tanking of the US dollar against the mark was a near death experience for the German auto makers in the North American market. All of them came up with strategies to survive and lower the risk of it happening again. M-B took on more than it could manage.

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      I agree with your analysis but I think the main issue was digital electronics. All manufacturers struggled with electronics starting in the early 90s. The three Mercedes I’ve owned were all from the 80s and they were dead reliable because their luxury features (e.g. climate control) were all analog and not digital. The post 1995 MBs had great drivetrains but poor electronics. Lexus and Infinity seemed to handle this evolution better than the Germans, BMW included.

  • avatar
    threeer

    This is a very poignant and timely discussion topic for me, as my (67-year old) mother is contemplating her “last” car purchase, and has always not-so secretly harbored a desire to own a Mercedes C-class (before people start going on about “why a C-class…” she doesn’t do huge cars, and the C-class fits). But I’m fully aware of the beating MB has taken over the years for their reliability, so I am hesitant to recommend to her a new (2010-2011) C300. I don’t want her to end up with another Corolla (her current car, a 2003 Corolla) and I know she wants to step up for her last car.
    Has the new C-class really made large enough improvements in quality and reliability to be considered as a 10-year proposition for a soon-to-be-retired widow (I do live in the same town, so that would potentially help)? I want her to have what her heart desires and what she’s worked and sacrificed for…but don’t want her to experience automotive hell in five or so years…

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Ironically, I think the C330 would work great for a retired lady “of a certain age,” but if she REALLY wants a prestige car that is the same size, bulletproof, and cheaper, I’d steer her into a Lexus dealer and show her an IS250. That, or how about an Acura TSX for 10 grand less? Either is a better car than the C330. She’ll love the service at the Lexus dealer, and the Acura is a bit bigger, so her buddies won’t have to act like gymnasts getting in and out.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Let her get the M-B. Keep the high-tech options to a minimum so that there’s less to break.

      • 0 avatar
        bkennelly

        For what it’s worth, I purchased my 2009 C300 three years ago, at the age of 28, after driving, among others, an IS250/350, 328/335, and G. The IS felt like I was sitting deep in a cave with horrible visibility, and the steering was horrible. The BMW was okay but previously having an ’05 325ci with plenty of rattles and recurring mechanical problems (sold with 20K miles) I wasn’t going there, or to BMW’s arrogance, again. The G was not that “fun” to drive, but certainly had a lot of power. The C300 has been 100% reliable in the 18K I’ve owned it, and is actually fun to toss around. I can’t recommend the C300 enough. As a previous owner of a ’92 W124, I wanted a car that as closely approximated that as possible; I don’t care that the interior isn’t showy and I frankly don’t care what my neighbors think about it, I bought it for myself and will keep it for 10+ years from now.

        I think a key issue is maintenance. If you can’t afford to have it maintained at a (good) dealer, or a good independent mechanic, then go with the IS or etc.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @bkennelly:
        “The G was not that “fun” to drive, but certainly had a lot of power. ”

        I think you must have driven the wrong G – the Infiniti G is a blast to drive by just about any standard.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I have a German car. My experience has defied that of the various reliability surveys and has actually been quite good.

      In my opinion, they can work out well enough (assuming that you avoid the absolute dogs among them) if you:

      -Don’t drive it much
      -Garage it
      -Maintain it by the book, and then some
      -Don’t drive it much
      -Baby it most of the time
      -Don’t drive it much

      A lot of problems rack up with mileage and exposure. If the car is cared for, secured in a nice, cool garage and generally treated like a queen, then it may well give her good service (although it might not).

      If she drives it a lot or doesn’t take care of it, then the risks go up. I wouldn’t recommend one to someone who isn’t willing to make the effort, and I’d be hesitant to recommend them to those who have to drive the usual 12,000-14,000 miles per year.

      Europeans drive less than Americans do. It doesn’t surprise me that their experience is better. But the average American senior drives about 5,000 miles per year, so that age group has a lot more acceptable options.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        She drives less than 10k a year, so heavy usage is not an issue, and as she gets older, that mileage may actually drop even more. The house has an attached garage, which she uses every day to park the Corolla in. And she’s pretty up on maintaining a vehicle, as per manufacturer’s specs. In conversation with a few new C-class owners, they seem generally pleased with the new model’s build quality and service so far…but that’s only after one or two years of ownership. And while the 2003 Corolla is dead boring, in 8+ years of ownership it has never once gone in for any repairs. I know that any near-luxury car will prove hard to match that service record, but maybe as if said above (service regularly, maintain and not drive the snot out of it) maybe she’ll still be satisfied if she goes the C300 route…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        maybe she’ll still be satisfied if she goes the C300 route

        Check around and make sure that the local Mercedes dealership has a good service department. (Owners forums are usually good for this sort of thing.)

        One thing that the luxury makes can do well is taking the sting out of the service experience. Even if the car ends up with some TSB, recall or replacement issues, they don’t seem so bad from the customer’s standpoint if they’re handled with courtesy while the routine service is being performed, and when they are served up with a latte or a free loaner. The service needs may be greater than they would be with a Corolla, but they might be easier to stomach.

      • 0 avatar
        kowsnofskia

        “And while the 2003 Corolla is dead boring, in 8+ years of ownership it has never once gone in for any repairs.”

        So than why is replacing it on the table for discussion?

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Whatever you say, Jack. Come on and visit New York City and spend the afternoon counting the Mercedes-Benz products with livery plates. You don’t see C-Classes or E-classes. They’re not big enough to haul around fat tourists and fatter locals. You don’t see Lexus or Infiniti, either.

    But the ML, S, and R classes are everywhere, including where your much loved Panthers prowl.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    MB is to a point in the same straights the domestic manufacturers are/were. The only way to regain their reputation for the highest quality products is to build them. They won’t regain their reputation overnight but they didn’t lose it overnight either. Without question Lexus now occupies the highest quality position MB used to. On a side note, I don’t think Dr. Z has been anything but a disaster for MB, some fresh leadership is needed.

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    Having owned a 63, an 80, 85, 89, and 95 model years of used Benzes, I’ve got an opinion on this.

    Before heavy electronics, those crazy Germans, either MB themselves or their top suppliers like Bosch, would apparently engineer their stuff with a mindset of “What if someone wants to buy this new Mercedes and take it to deepest Africa, where it would be subjected to harsh terrain, unpredictable fuel, and years of the owner needing to be able to repair any damage or failures? Let’s make everything rebuildable, and make sure the hard bits are sturdy enough to hold up that long.”

    Once Lexus demonstrated that there was a different way to go after big spenders, and electrics and electronics became a larger factor, Mercedes cars seemed to change from being designed for maybe 15 or 20 year lifespans down to just lasting through the warranty, please.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      I’m thinking W126 is the last of the sturdy Benzes.. Though the W140 remains a temptation, from what I hear it just has a whole lot more stuff that will break expensively..

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    The problem for companies like Lexus and Acura is that the quality started to come back around ’07 or so, and is still getting better. I much prefer Audi to Mercedes, but the plastic trash interiors in M-B products of the late ’90s through mid ’00s are largely gone, as are the days when a M-B would spend more days in the shop than out.

    Which car would you rather spend time in, the new 2012 ML which after years of junk now has one of the nicest interiors in its class, or the cost-gutted, plastified, over-styled Lexus RX?

    If the Germans ever do truly reach parity with the Japanese in terms of long term reliability, Lexus and Acura are finished. There are NO good reasons to buy those cars other than fears about maintenance and repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      1) “Which car would you rather spend time in, the new 2012 ML which after years of junk now has one of the nicest interiors in its class, or the cost-gutted, plastified, over-styled Lexus RX?”

      — RX or MDX every time.

      2) “If the Germans ever do truly reach parity with the Japanese in terms of long term reliability, Lexus and Acura are finished. There are NO good reasons to buy those cars other than fears about maintenance and repairs.”

      — If Toyota ever makes the Camry handle as well as a 335, BMW would be finished.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynamic88

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        This is what Jaguar should be shooting for. IMO they (especially the XF) are the most attractive cars on the road.

        If Jag raises their reliability to within a couple of arm lengths of Lexus the Germans would become very nervous…especially with a Jag 3 series fighter on the horizon.

      • 0 avatar
        mpresley

        “If Toyota ever makes the Camry handle as well as a 335, BMW would be finished.”

        And if your aunt were a man, she’d be your uncle. I recently rode in last year’s Camry. I’d never been in one. I was shocked at the poor ride, and the cheapness of the interior.

        Never mind the car’s “design” which simply underscores that Japanese have zero aesthetic ability when it comes to cars. They either look like the cartoon spawn of Ultraman (most Mazdas), or dull as dishwater boring (every Toyota).

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      I still remember the first time I took a ride in a business client’s Lexus RX. They were new at the time and I was expecting to be amazed after all the hype.

      What a pile of crap. He hit a minor bump in the road and I was literally thrown in the air hard enough to bang my head against the claustrophobically low ceiling. And this in something with arguably truck-like styling. The electronics were gimmicky-looking and it just screamed cheap.

      I think ML’s are butt-ugly, but at least they aren’t the Toyota version of owning a McMansion…

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    If Toyota/Lexus ever makes a 3 series contender BMW will experience a rapid decline in sales. A repeat of the Lexus 400 series success all over again.

    • 0 avatar
      rdeiriar

      The first IS (XE10) was the closest 3 series contender anyone has built. Compact, rwd, with a great inline six, it’s lovely to drive, even if the styling was bland, and the interior rather tight.

      Although much better looking, and undoubtly a better car in overall terms, the current one is (in non F trim) much closer to a C class in concept, which begs the question whether there actually is a market for a non BMW 3 series ?

      BTW, am i the only one that thinks the old IS has the markings of a future classic ?

      • 0 avatar
        Tommy Boy

        >>”BTW, am i the only one that thinks the old IS has the markings of a future classic ?”

        This is a personal / subjective opinion, so for whatever it’s worth, the first time I saw the IS at an auto show I thought it was a new Scion. Generic Toyota styling, not particularly attractive.

        And it was /is one of the most notable / worst examples of the high-beltline / gun-slit window school of styling — beyond being fugly, this impairs both riving enjoyment and safety due to reduced visibility.

        While this styling is currently in vogue amongst the lemming-like manufacturers, I don’t believe it’ll age well and (hopefully soon) will go the way of opera windows, gold-colored trim and vinyl “carriage roofs.”

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Carmax just got a 1997 Mercedes S500 trade-in for the mere price of $750. It had a big dent in the trunk and some type of repair needed for the rear suspension. But otherwise there was no check engine light and apparently it shifts out fine.

    You would have to throw in a pretty slick angle for a LeMons winner to be advertised by a prestigious brand like Mercedes.

    By the way, that commercial is one of my all time favorites. I could probably write about older Benzes for hours on end. But suffice to say that Toyota now has them trumped when it comes to long-term quality and longevity.

    Unfortunately, that’s not an opinion… it’s a historical fact.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      Can’t say I disagree with you about Toyota quality. It’s terrific, regardless of the perception created by the Sudden Accerlation Scare, which created a lot of anti-Toyota bi… er, feelings, nothing more than feelings, against Toyota.

      However, other than hybrid Camrys, Priora, and minivans, one doesn’t see Lexii running in the livery fleets in New York City. Nor does one see BMWs or Infinitae. On the other hand, there are plenty of Nissans used by livery services, the City of New York and even the Po-Po. By the way, the Nissans got in because they’re “made in America.”

      So if Mercedes-Benz is really as bad as the truthers, er B&B insist, how come the livery services use them? And yes, they use LOTS of s-class sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        “However, other than hybrid Camrys, Priora, and minivans, one doesn’t see Lexii running in the livery fleets in New York City.”

        That’s because the Toyota version costs about 30% to 50% less than the Lexus version built on the same platform.

        “On the other hand, there are plenty of Nissans used by livery services, the City of New York and even the Po-Po. By the way, the Nissans got in because they’re “made in America.”

        Police buy Nissans in significant volumes? I’m not sure if I can agree with that.

        The Nissan vehicles used for taxi services have already experienced very long life cycles in other nearby markets and their parts costs reflect that. The upcoming Nissan cab for NYC has already been produced in various forms south of the border for a very long time.

        “So if Mercedes-Benz is really as bad as the truthers, er B&B insist, how come the livery services use them? And yes, they use LOTS of s-class sedans.”

        A Mercedes symbolizes wealth and affluence throughout the world. The S-Class in particular is a testament to this reputation.

        Lexus has difficulties in Europe on the prestige and ‘handling’ side. Lexus also lags in China along with many other smaller markets when it comes to taxation (25% tariffs for imports not built in China plus up to a 40% bump to their using larger displacement engines.)

        Toyota tends to lag behind all the Germans when it comes to building the relationships and ‘tastes’ of overseas markets with North America and certain Middle East countries being the exception.

        However Mercedes has suffered terribly in the United States precisely because their quality and durability has been so far below their most direct competitor in this market… Lexus.

        In most other countries the panache and driving experience of an S-Class can overcome this reality (having protected markets and tariffs also plays a role).

        But in a neutral market like the United States where neither brand is considered to be the ‘home team’ and tariff issues are minimal to non, Lexus has made their mark to the primary detriment of Mercedes.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Steven, yes the NYPD sports a fairly sizable fleet of Nissan Altimas. Hybrids to boot. It was part of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative and so far those Altimas are doing ok in one of the most car-hostile areas in the world. They do not replace all the Panthers, rather the PlaNYC initiative was to “right size” vehicles. So for uses that don’t require a full size police car, Alimas, Impalas, etc fill the bill.

      • 0 avatar
        Patrickj

        @Golden
        It is looking over time that hybrids offer superior reliability in urban driving when compared to conventional vehicles. Using the electric motor and regenerative braking to take most of the stress of stoplight to stoplight driving looks to increase durability over going from 0 to 3000 rpm on the engine every two blocks.

        I was in a Ford Escape cab in NYC about a month ago, and while it seriously lacks in room for a cab, it seemed to be holding up well at 150,000+ miles. I suspect a conventional Escape wouldn’t stand a chance in that application.

        Yes I know, a Panther would wouldn’t have had its hood opened for the first time yet at 150K miles.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      MB had some great advertising in the late 90’s/ early aughts; I’m partial to the “Faithful” commercial.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Is the IS not a 3 series contender? The IS300 had surprisingly good handling, arguably the best of any Toyota sedan ever sold in the US. The rest of it was crap though, it was about as luxurious as a Honda Civic.

    The new one got the luxury right-ish, although it’s in the bottom of the class with the TL in terms of actual luxury feel. BMW still doesn’t seem to be feeling the heat though. I haven’t seen the IS stomp the 3 series into the ground anywhere. In fact, Lexus losing its #1 position seems to suggest that the warmed over Camrys and 4Runners are maybe not so worth it after all.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      In the price range of 3 series, Lexus has two entries: ES and IS. So, when do the calculation, you should use the sum of the two.

      • 0 avatar
        Davekaybsc

        Just because the ES costs about the same as the 3 series doesn’t make it a competitor. The ES is a FWD boat for the retired crowd, the people who used to buy Town Cars. NO ONE is cross shopping an ES350 and a 335i.

        Back to the earlier point you made about if Toyota ever makes a Camry handle as good as a 335, give me a call when that happens, and I’ll buy one. The last Camry SE I drove (’08) was one of the worst cars I’ve driven in some time. Absolutely awful, even by family sedan standards. I’d take a Fusion, Mazda6, or Alitma over anything Toyota makes, let alone a BMW 3 series or Audi A4.

        The Camry is for people who either actively don’t like cars or just don’t care about them, and I have to believe that it would be easier for BMW to get its fuel pumps to work properly than it would be for Toyota to turn the Camry into a car I’d actually drive.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        1) “Just because the ES costs about the same as the 3 series doesn’t make it a competitor. The ES is a FWD boat for the retired crowd, the people who used to buy Town Cars. NO ONE is cross shopping an ES350 and a 335i.”

        — Cars in the same price range do compete, even indirectly. Plenty of people would cross shop an ES350 with an IS350. The IS is clearly competing with 328/335. So, it’s not fair to exclude the ES sales when you compare the IS with the 3. Lexus would have sold more IS, if the ES is not available.

        Other than the ES, lots of A4s are FWD also. And they are cross shopped with both ES and the 3.

        2) “Back to the earlier point you made about if Toyota ever makes a Camry handle as good as a 335, give me a call when that happens, and I’ll buy one.”

        — Same thing. When the Germans ever do truly reach parity with the Japanese in terms of long term reliability, you will have a lot of calls to make. But seriously, it won’t happen.

        It’s the kind of thing amateurs can never understand. Like, exactly how hard could it be for MB to improve reliability? How hard could it be for Toyota to improve handling? How hard could it be for Microsoft to improve network security? How hard could it be for Fed to fix the economy?

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    It is impossible to talk about Mercedes-Benz quality without mentioning the erosion of their pricing power. People often forget, in an era where Audi, MB, BMW, et. al sell at roughly the same price points, that Mercedes vehicles used to carry an obscene premium over the competition.

    When the W140 debuted for ’92, the MSRP of the 500SEL was $93,500 (ADJ: $150,588) Today’s S550 stickers for….$93,000.

    I own a 1995 W124 coupe. In that final year of production, it cost $63,000 (ADJ: $93,410). The cabriolet ran $79,000.
    Today’s E350 coupe starts at $48,850; the cab, $56,850.

    As Lexus entered the market and BMW went more upscale, Mercedes, long used to being the only game in town, could no longer get away with pricing like that. Without those hefty premiums (and significantly longer production cycles), it’s virtually impossible for Mercedes to engineer their new cars in the same fashion as the old.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      That’s a fantastic point.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      That’s a void point. A Toyota Camry sells for no more than mid-90’s price either and grew in size more than the MB did. And it remains the top selling sedan in the US and is making Toyota a lot of money.

      • 0 avatar
        KitaIkki

        That’s not a void point. Today’s Camry is significantly cheapened compared to the “fat content” mid-90’s version. It’s especially obvious with the hard-plastic filled interior of the current car.

    • 0 avatar

      Ah, summertime, Mercedes-bashing-time…

      There were no quality issues with the W140. I think that was the best-selling S class ever. Many cars still alive and running well in rugged environments like Russia and other ex-USSR countries.

      I have been comparing the Mercedes prices for quite a lot of time. I have even owned a re-imported 190E 2.6 from the US in the nineties. There were no quality differences. Just the price. The US price was ridiculous low.

      Of course, Mercedes has competition now, as compared to twenty, thirty years ago. Of course, they have to struggle with this competition. It ‘s far more tougher, if you have been No. 1.

      But IMHO Mercedes is doing quite well. Where do you get a car like a full-blown S class running on 6 l/100 km (convert that to your own favorite/favourite mileage), Diesel, of course. The competition still eagerly copies concepts like the four-door CLS. What about the A class /B class? What about the Smart? At least, that was something new, compared to those boring Toyota/Lexus stuff. Of course, not mainstream.

      As to the quality: If we rule out that cars exported from Europe to the US have a lower quality standard, if we also exclude that European buyers are utterly stupid (for not buying more reliable and cheaper to maintain Panther cars or Lexuses) than we have to look at other factors:

      Can’t it be that greedy “luxury” dealerships (or dealerships with a low margin) combined with mechanics who are simply trained to replace, not to repair parts (or are not allowed to), result in a less favorable owner experiences? I could imagine to run into the same problems would I insist on having, e.g., a Cadillac here.

      BTW: I’m NOT a Mercedes fan boy. I simply had some over the years, amongst others. Enjoyed them for a while, had no significant problems, got bored, bought other brands. No love, no hate, no bias. Would I have more money at the moment I’d rather go for the updated Morgan 3-Wheeler (c.. http://www.morgan3wheeler.co.uk/home.html). I simply appreciate this approach of going back to the basics.

      • 0 avatar
        eldard

        “There were no quality issues with the W140. I think that was the best-selling S class ever.”

        Talk about bia–er, being blind. The W140 sold only 400K units during its entire run. That’s less than half of the total sales of the W126. And that’s because of one reason and one reason only: The arrival of Lexus.

        And two words: wiring harness

      • 0 avatar

        Right you are, wrong I was, regarding the W140 sales. It simply was a fat and ugly car.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I wonder what it would cost to convert my 300SDL into a wagon? It’s got rear collision damage (driver side pushed in about 1.5″) that would cost more to fix than the car’s worth, but converting it into a station wagon would make it exceedingly useful.. Perhaps take it to a coachbuilder that makes hearses..

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Dr KN. If the rear suspension isnt affected. Pull out the rear end with a come-along. Replace any broken lights with JY bits and soldier on . My son’s college car was a twice totaled 528e. It was ugly, but very reliable.

  • avatar
    StatisticalDolphin

    Another reason many American drivers focus on vehicle reliability is the risk associated with breaking down while driving through a bad neighborhood. Seems likely the typical European driver does not have to worry about this as much. Being inconvenienced is one thing, being stranded in a life-threatening situation is another. The $20,000 to $30,000 spent on the badge on the front of the vehicle isn’t going to help at that point.

  • avatar
    Rob

    I was car shopping on a Saturday morning a few years ago. I visited Acura, BMW, Audi, and finally a Mercedes dealership. After a test drive of a beautiful SLK, the Mercedes salesman wanted to show off their equally beautiful service department. There were a dozen well-healed customers sitting in the customer lounge, drinking complementary espressos and lattes, talking on their cell phones, watching a flat screen T.V. or gazing through a glass wall at a service bay that resembled a NASA clean room filled with a dozen Benz’s. The grinning salesman noticed the wide-eyed look on my face and asked me what I thought. I replied I thought the service department was gorgeous, but I liked the one at the Acura dealership better. The surprised salesman asked me how the Acura service department could possibly top this one. I simply replied, “The Acura service department is empty.”

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