Looks Aren't Important: Mercedes-Benz Dealers Get a 10-year Break From Image Maintenance

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
looks aren t important mercedes benz dealers get a 10 year break from image

If Mercedes-Benz dealers manage to overhaul their stores to the brand’s updated “Autohaus2” image standards, the locations can forget about additional modifications until after 2024.

The German automaker’s promise to leave dealerships alone is abnormal, and comes after the second generation of its controversial Autohaus standard established — to the chagrin of dealerships — in 2008. Much of Mercedes’ salesforce objected to the mandatory image alterations, similarly to how Cadillac’s dealer network has responded to that brand’s Project Pinnacle.

Hoping to ease tensions as showrooms adhere to the new status quo, the 2024 pledge provides all sides with a reprieve. The Autohaus2 plan, and subsequent dealer amnesty, was penned under former Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon, though the company’s current North American boss, Dietmar Exler, also supports it.

“It was the right thing to do,” Exler told Automotive News. “There is no backtracking from that. We’ve made a commitment to the dealers.”

According to Mercedes spokeswoman Donna Boland, the more youth-focused branding and image modernization is fine with a 10-year buffer. However, the majority of Benz dealerships have yet to update to Autohaus’ second incarnation. Stores were required to submit their renovation plans or meet with a company designer prior to last November, but work doesn’t have to be completed until June 30, 2018.

While Mercedes was obliged to follow some new franchise laws that disallows incessant image updates, not every state is subject to the same laws and it could have shortened the 2024 timeline for those stores. However there are over a dozen U.S. states states that have passed seven, ten, or even fifteen year limits on frequently manufacturers can require showroom overhauls.

Dealers seem generally pleased with Mercedes’ mandatory benevolence, however it came to be. “Mercedes hit the sweet spot,” said Jeff Aiosa, a Benz dealer in New London, Connecticut. “Ten years is a good number for the state statutes across the country.”

I just hope the Autohaus2 look remains contemporary a decade later. A lot can change in a year in terms of what’s hip and you don’t want a showroom filled with the automotive or architectural equivalent of mullets and flared jeans.

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4 of 14 comments
  • Whatnext Whatnext on Feb 21, 2017

    Funny, most FCA Chrysler-Dodge dealers seem to have gotten a 20 year break on image maintenance, judging by their appearance.

    • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Feb 21, 2017

      Many dealerships were "compliant" according to the franchise agreement when new, but became outdated with the passage of time, which is what this entire effort by Mercedes is attempting to address. Many dealerships making money either because they stock product that's in demand and/or are one if the few exclusive sellers of said product in a wide geographic area are nit going to voluntarily sink a ton of $$$ in a dealership renovation without being severely pressured to do so (which is why you see all manner of antiquated dealerships selling nearly vehicles of every type and at almost any price point).

  • Indi500fan Indi500fan on Feb 21, 2017

    In this category of vehicle...is the store ambience a big deal with customers? My view is I DGAF about what it looks like, much more concentrating on the deal. But I know I'm an outlier.

    • Glenn Mercer Glenn Mercer on Feb 21, 2017

      I would say that, as with so many other things, customer opinions vary. If I am looking for a rock-bottom price on a new car, I want a nice run-down store, as then I know the dealer didn't spend a lot of dough on the store, and now has to earn it back from me. Conversely, if I am about to drop $75,000 on a luxury sedan, maybe I want a posh store as reassurance, as some sort of evidence that I have joined the ranks of the 1% or whatever (since let's face it, there is little the $75,000 new car does that a $5,000 beater doesn't). Or if I am a high-paid surgeon (e.g.) I might not want to even see the store at all, as I value my time at $1,000 an hour, and want the car just dropped off at my home. There is also a competitive issue: some customers, if they see that BMW has a palatial store, and that Audi does, will wonder if something is wrong if Mercedes does not, also.

  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.