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Home > Blog > Forget Quality, We've Got Brand
Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, May 26, 2004 4:47 PM
Forget Quality, We've Got Brand
Kevin Salwen on Culture

What on earth has happened to Mercedes? The company is planning to recall about 680,000 of its E-Class and SL cars worldwide, noting that the vehicles' vaunted braking system could fail. This news comes on top of the fact that Mercedes has fallen behind Dodge, Subaru and Mazda in repair records.

Actually, none of this surprises me. Several years ago, I bought the new M-Class SUV when Mercedes first began building cars in Alabama (no snickers please). From Day One, the thing had all the reliability of a 1975 Chrysler. In just a year or so, the remote locking system died (taking 4 months to fix), the driver's side window broke in the open position (it does rain where I live) and, my personal fave, the windshield wiper stalk broke off in my hand.

When I asked the dealer about the Mercedes quality question, he contended that the problem wasn't with the vehicles. 'It's just the components.' I laughed out loud. 'Components means parts, doesn't it? Isn't a car just the sum of its parts?'

How did things get like this for one of the most impressive brands in the world? How could they have taken their eye off the basic rule of making a car -- that is, it has to run without falling apart? How do companies miss the point so easily?


4 comments

Boris Anthony - 5/27/2004 9:39:16 PM
Ahem. Daimler *Chrysler*.
T'was a sad, sad day.

'Yes, um, I'll be taking the BMW. Thank you.'
Tom - 5/27/2004 2:20:33 PM
Michele, it's nice that second dealer was able to fix the problem but a) it shouldn't have needed a new transmission at 1 year unless it was used to drag race and b) the first dealer's attitude tells you all you need to know about Mercedes.
Michele Miller - 5/27/2004 11:01:48 AM
Don't forget the strength (or weakness) of individual dealerships. We happen to have two in the greater Phoenix area. My husband recently purchased a one-year old SL500. Noisy beyond belief! Several trips to the dealer where he was told that a) they couldn't hear anything, and b) he was crazy.

He finally took it to the other dealer in town - they took it right in and ended up replacing the entire transmission!

Now she runs like a dream... and my husband will never visit that first dealership's showroom again...
Eric - 5/26/2004 10:14:17 PM
They're getting too big for themselves. VW and Audi have been getting better marks for their interiors and quality while the old 'standards' are getting too distracted and sloppy.

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