MB Services Market Case, Opinions. Long.

In a small, free market country, with entrepeneurial culture: MB's new car sales have been growing by a strong 20% average during the last five years in this country. In 2005, sales grew by a dramatic 75% (mostly C
Class), almost doubling the sales volume in two years. The new cars are sold under a two years warranty, and the dealer offers a maintenance contract up to three years or 30 kmiles, from USD 500 a year.
Although the (only) official dealer has invested in service equipment and training, the number of its service centers has remained practically the same for decades. Consequently, the quality of the service has been deteriorating, especially with respect to fast and on-time delivery. One can see in the mornings, long rows of MBs crowding around the dealer's facilities, waiting. In addition, customers are complaining that the dealer has raised its service prices to insane levels. This way, an unsatisfied demand for MB service keeps growing.
Interestingly, the number of MB independent shops has remained also the same, which IMO, clearly shows that there are unbeatable entry barriers for them. I mean, one can understand the dealers lack of interest to invest in new facilities, I cant imagine a better business scenario for them. But what about potential competitors, where are they?.
So the questions are, which are those high barriers preventing more independent shops to get into the business? Is this just a local phenomenon, or a tendency everywhere? How is it where you live?
What do you think is going on here? Is that barrier the more and more complex engine electronics and equipment / technicians / training required to deal with it?, MB's proprietary technologies?. What about the influence of the official dealer stamp on the service record book?. How important could that be?.
Please give me an opinion.
Thanks MMansilla
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In Northern California auto service is more "democratic" but has some similar characteristics.
The higher population of new cars of course creates demand for service, especially if the first 4 years of service is included in the car's purchase price, which M-B did until a couple of years ago (and is still offered here by BMW).
All cars have incorporated a lot of proprietary "software" that's only made available to dealers. Cars may need (and get) software updates just as our computers do. Cars' high software levels have caused a legislative effort to force manufacturers to share their "source codes" so independent shops can get some of this business.
The essentially fixed supply of trained mechanics creates a defacto dealer monopoly on new(er) car service; this is also why no new independents are opening in your area.
I own a '80 300SD Turbodiesel and a '97 E320. The diesel is very reliable, simple and understandable and that's why I keep it. I'm considering replacing the '97 but am put off by the '07 E350's "sports sedan" emphasis and its option packaging and, while I want its safety technology, I'm put off by high technology that's so remote to me that I'm chained to the dealer for at least 4 years, a feeling reinforced by M-B's spotty high tech reliability. So I'm in a wait and see mode for the reliability and service aspect is part of the "ownership experience" of any car brand.
I'm not fond of their bland committee compromise car designs but Lexus has done an excellent job in product reliability. I don't understand why M-B reliability is below the AVERAGE of all cars, yet we're asked to pay M-B double the average car's price!
Let's not forget that virtually any new car will transport one in comfort and safety so the "luxury" is in added features - but only if they work!
Since I'm not interested in COMMAND systems (in lieu of a radio knob), hands free communications w/ or w/o Bluetooth, 17' or 18' wheels and low profile tires perhaps I should look elsewhere, for a less faux sports car.
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I've been saving for replacing my '98 E240, now I'm doubting. The sentence "Nobody needs more car than a 10 year old Mercedes...", began making more and more sense to me.
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I bought the '80 300SD new, built to order.
Today, after 26 years of ownership, it reached 110,000 miles.
That's different from buying a car with an unknown history.
I'd do this again but feel a new ('07) car's complexity will not be as forgiving with the passage of time as the simple, understandable 300SD.
After twenty years some of today's "hot" high tech features will be obsolete and dead as dodos. And I don't even want them now.
Perhaps the rational answer is to buy a car that has the features one wants, in good condition, regardless of its vintage. Utility approach.
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I have a buddy in the tropical fish hobby world whose an MB tech, when I found this out I asekd him how he felt about the brake by wire sytems int he new cars. He said "It's unbelievably complex and we don't really understand it and it's VERY expesnive to repair, they sent us all to Germany for a 6 week course about is and when we got back we understood it less than before. Me and half the other guys quit a week later. You can't fix those cars any more."
Scary. One wag said that "merdeces is now where jaguar was 15 years ago, MB has jumped ths shark".
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That's what I wonder sometimes, but Mercs do (did?) seem ahead of their time. My 190E (new in 1993) seemed to have as standard features that weren't on 'mass' cars but have become so since. Thus the 190 still feels current in quite a few areas.
In Britain (and, probably, Germany) it is widely thought that what goes into the Merc (particularly S-Class) now will be commonplace about 10 years later.
So, no, high tech features won't be dead in the future, maybe just superseded by a superior version.
DAS
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Yup, my friend who is an automotive design student told me that many of vanguard design and technology are often found on the flagship or halo vehicle. They often cascade down to the most basic vehicle in five to ten years. Or even less if the competition is very intense, and the vehicles need to stand out.
Just saw my father's 1977 450SEL yesterday for the first time in five years. Gosh! I could see how much we have come long way in automotive technology. Radio is just two-knob and five-button contraption. Heating system might not have changed much over the year other than filter and automatic feature. It took me a bit to figure out the quirky HVAC controls. No remote locking system. Must physically lock and unlock with key (on either side of front doors). Three-speed automatic gearbox with no separate switches for winter, sport, economy, and like driving. All of levers and knobs to adjust the front seats. When anything goes wrong, it's matter of 'hunting' by the seat of the pants (no diagnosis codes to tell us what went awry). Those modern cars are spoiling us!
Dori A Schmetterling wrote:

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Yeah, in 1977 the drivers (and mechanics) had to know how a car worked.
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Yeah, no cupholders either.
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wants, in good condition, regardless of its vintage. Utility approach.
Yes, the car that fits, with one's preferences and needs.
But we people often buy things that we don't really need. For example, I saw a survey recently, made by Ford. If I recall correctly, 60% or so of SUVs owners have never used the 4x4 feature. Its a waste of money. Big wheels, heavy duty chassis, more fuel, etc, for what?. It seems that they like how they "look" driving those cars.
I suppose they (we) "need" to look good.
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10? Try 25 :-)
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So, we have to tell *someone* to change the number on his web page. :>)
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For the first time in some 30 years of doing business with an independant shop, I am hesitant to take in my 2005 C240 AWD. It's not that I don't trust him. He's worked on a wide range of cars I've owned over the years, from Pinto to Alfa (quite a spread, I admit...:-))
My next service interval does not come up for about 7000 miles. But, I was talking with the shop owner about my MB, while he was working on my other car. I mentioned that one requirement of the MB is the use of a fleece oil filter, instead of the conventional paper type. He had never heard of a fleece filter, though to be honest neither had I before reading the MB owner's manual.
This raises concerns about the technical knowledge of his mechanics, even the one who regularly worked on my 1998 C230. The bottom line is that I may have no other recourse than to go into the dealership's service shop for my Type B service.
On the other hand, the indy mechanic can buy a fleece filter in the aftermarket. The MB manual includes a checklist for all work required under A and B service, so he could follow that. I think that while writing this note, I have come across my answer, which is to show him the service requirements and see whether he is comfortable having his shop do the work. I truat him implicitly and know he would not mislead me. On the other hand, he might overestimate his shop's capabilities.
So, what would you do in a similar situation? Thanks...
Sherm

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Ahh... right MB doesn't offer full 4 years maintenance for free anymore... I think they stopped in 2003. Service A and B is not all that difficult at all... and as far as changing oil... it is pretty much the same... if he worked on 2000 and newer MB, he already know how to change the filter... 4 o-orings need to be changed if I remembered correctly... but if he doesn't know fleece, then mmm... that is disturbing.
You can get regular paper filter for your car but fleece is so much better and cost alot more... that it is not part of $19.99+ oil change. Here is the thing, if you are going to use regular oil, you can use paper filter and change oil every 3000 miles. But if you are gping extended oil interval such as the 10,000 miles as dictated by MB, then you must use synthetic oil.
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Sherm, I'm in the same boat as you with my 2004 Clk 240, also with about 6000 miles to go before a B service. My nearest MB dealer is just too expensive for me.
I alweays had a local guy service my previous car - a Toyota Celica GT, but I'm a bit worried about letting him loose on my new baby.
If he doesn't put exactly the right amount of the (correct) engine oil in, there is no dipstick to check the level. The engine management system checks that.
But the oil has to be warm, and the engine switched off. What a game that must be - just to get it exactly right.
I'll have to check into this fleece filter business.
David
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David J <David J> wrote:

How do you get the sheep into the engine?
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Richard Sexton wrote:

The same way you get 'em to buy a Mercedes!
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I had a similar experience with an independent shop.
My '97 E320 is the last year of the old 24 valve straight six, which ought to have its oil changed every 7,500 miles. I took it to the independent and waited. The bill was presented for synthetic oil which it doesn't require due to its fixed 7,500 mile oil change interval. I challenged the synthetic oil and they replied that they had called the local dealer and were told that synthetic oil was required "by the car's service computer" (which it doesn't have.) I said there is no computer and the oil gets changed every 7,500 miles - they then implied that I, the eight year owner of this car, didn't know what I was talking about. The charge was reduced to regular oil.
This quaint incident illustrated that the independent is OK for a ten+ year old car but simply out of the game with newer models. Similar to your experience.
I don't want to be the shop's trainer - they purport to be professionals and professionals are supposed to know their subject.
So the E320's work is now done by the dealer but I limit the cost by ordering only an oil and filter change, not the A or B or C "service" - and nobody objects to that - in fact the cost is about comparable to the independent - and the car gets washed as well!
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