Mercedes problems...who to contact?

Ok, my family has always owned all American cars, as far back as I can remember, and we tend to keep cars for about 10 years. After having a re-occurring timing-belt issue on a particular Chevrolet, in 1999 we happened
upon a used 1997 E420. Bought it, our first "foreign" car, and still have it to this day. We keep our cars maintained very well, always hand-washing once a week, doing all oil changes (Mobil 1 synthetic) and things on time and at the MB dealer. However, in 2002, when the car was just five years young, the front-right shock tower rusted completely through and had to be re-welded and repaired for a cost of over $3000. Mercedes blamed it on the fact that Chicago uses salt on the roads in the winter!?! I couldn't believe it, as none of our previous cars ever had ANY rust problems. Anyway, after a battle with the dealer, they agreed to pay half of the repairs, although we were still unhappy. Just had the car in again last week for new tires, and when I get the car back, the driver's-side mirror glass is hanging from mirror housing. I notice this as soon as the porter pulled the car around. I get the service manager, and he says that I have no way of proving that it wasn't broken *before* I brought it in for the tires. They want me to pay over $500 for a new mirror, which *they* broke! After an hour of arguements, we settled on me paying half of the mirror cost, which was just under $200. So, I have to bring the car back in because they had to order the parts. So, come back in, they fix the mirror, and the porter pulls the car around for me. Normally, they come in and give me the keys. This time, he pulled it outside and left it running! So, I leave, and as soon as I take the key out of the ignition, it falls apart! The button and the spring that pop the key out of the remote were missing! So, AGAIN, I go back to have them fix it, and they claim that it wasn't broken when they had it! Seems funny that the porter wouldn't bring me the keys (first time that's EVER happened), and since no parts fell out of the key onto the floormats, it's obvious someone knew it was broken before they started my car and drove it around for me. After another hour of arguing, they agreed to buy me a new key. Back in 1999, my father was so impressed with my E-class, that he ordered a brand-new, 2000 E430 4matic. The car is now four years old, and has barely 20,000 miles. This car is driven 2-3 times a week, for about 15-20 miles each trip. So, low mileage, but the trips are long enough to heat up the engine/oil. Because of Mercedes "Flexible Service Program", they wouldn't service the car when we wanted to change the oil, not even after 5000 miles. Now, the car is our of warranty, so we took it in the day after Thanksgiving for an oil change (brought our own Mobil 1 as usual). After dropping it off, we get a call saying that we need a fuel filter, spark plugs, and a new "hub" for the 4matic system. Total cost? Over $1500!!! For a car that only has 20,000 miles on it??? According to the Mercedes tech, "they've been having some problems with the 4matic systems." If Mercedes is having the problems, then why are the customers forced to pay for it? My father is so furious about this, he is going to trade the car and buy a new Lexus LS430. He had planned on driving the E430 for 200,000 miles or more, but not with costs like this at just 20,000 miles. In 2001, we bought a Toyota Sequoia to replace an aging 1992 Suburban, and my sister just bought a Honda Pilot. True, these aren't exciting cars, but the Sequoia hasn't had a single problem and it has 80,000 miles on it already. I know Mercedes are more complex than most American cars, and most Japanese cars. I know that German cars in general possess an unexplainable soul when you drive them, compared to most cars. Has anyone else made the switch to a Lexus or Infiniti or Acura? Are you happy, or do you miss the driving pleasure of a MB/BMW/Audi/Porsche? Mercedes slogan of "Like No Other" seems easy to make fun of with our recent experiences with their service department. No wonder they are doing away in 2005 with their "free maintenance" program - it's costing them too much money. Finally, does anyone know who we should contact at Mercedes? It seems like SOMEONE in the company would want to know how their service departments are costing them customers.
Randy Chicago, IL
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I've owned M-B cars since 1980 and understand your anger; I've had some less than optimum ownership experiences too.
Let me suggest a few things:
Perspective - these are just cars, not heirlooms. That era is long past due to their now relatively high technology: electronics, software and safety equipment. Do you really want to rely on a 20 year old air bag? Cars have become "throwaway" items, too complicated and expensive to repair.
Cars do go through repair cycles - everything seems to break and without reason. Our '79 280E once had its gas gauge quit and soon thereafter the driver's door lock cylinder broke. Then the climate control acted up etc. One gets totally disgusted with the car and the dealer.
Why do you continue to patronize the dealer after the car's warranty has expired? Why buy tires from the dealer rather than a tire shop?
IMHO M-B (and other brands) have designed their service program for the lease customer who could care less because in 39 months they will sign for a new car. Fighting "the system" by objecting that your car NEEDS an oil change when THE COMPUTER says it doesn't is just a waste of time, IMHO. Some drone at a car dealer doesn't want to have to justify anything to his boss that's contrary to the M-B party line. Forget it.
Most long time owners have learned to patronize an independent shop the day after the 4 year warranty expires. I suggest you do that for the independent shop doesn't argue - if YOU want the oil changed THEY change it!
IMHO dealers prey on out of warranty car owners. Suddenly many things need to be replaced or rebuilt. These guys hold themselves forth as experts but they're are on COMMISSION, learn to say NO!
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Well, for years we've used a local garage for all of our needs on American cars, and a few times now on our foreign cars. The owner is a family friend, and we trust him unconditionally. He himself owns a BMW, and his parents own two Mercedes. Certain things he will do on our E-classes, while for other things he recommends us to the dealer. His reasoning is that he doesn't have and can't afford the same high-tech diagnostic equipment the dealer has, and his tire mounting equipment has been known to scratch a few wheels. He does most of the work on his BMW and his parents' cars, but he also takes them to the dealer (I think just to see if he missed anything, or if they suggest any unneeded repairs). So, while we do use the dealer for things, we avoid their high costs with many items; we buy our Mobil 1 oil from Walmart in cases, and we buy all our tires through Tire Rack. While I do feel that Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura make great cars, which are typically more reliable than Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, the Japanese cars do not deliver the feel of the Germans, nor the enjoyment, the excitement. The Japanese models are more appliance-like. I never thought I'd give up the German "feel", but our whole family has been more and more disappointed in Mercedes, and more and more impressed with Toyota/Lexus, and Honda/Acura. Hell, the last time I scheduled an appointment for service on my Mercedes, they promised me a loaner car when I arrived -- not only was it not ready, but when they finally pulled it up front for me, it was a Dodge Neon! Apparently I as an E-class owner didn't deserve equal treatment as the man who brought in his M-class, who who drive another M-class, newer than his own. It will certainly be years if not never that I consider a Mercedes for myself. That disappoints me, because I used to look forward to the day I could afford that E55.
Randy Chicago, IL
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (Randy S) wrote in message

Like TG, I'm amazed that you keep going back to this dealer. Especially for tires. I've never bought a tire from a car dealer, nor would I, as there are plenty of fine tire dealers that offer far better deals.
The broken mirror would have been it for me. If it was obvious that it was damaged as opposed to just falling apart, I would not have backed down. If you got no satisfaction through the dealer or MB, I would have taken the dealer to small claims court. I know it may not be worth it in time for the couple hundred bucks, but I would do it anyway instead of taking crap from these guys.
There are definitely dealers out there that are crooks. My girlfriend had a 4 yr old Pontiac with about 70K miles on it. The ABS light would flash on intermittently and the brake pedel would pulse at the same time. She also said the power steering was making a squealing noise. I drove the car and the only place the steering made a noise was when I turned it to the stops in either direction. I've seen other cars do this too, it seemed normal to me.
So, she takes it to a local Pontiac dealer. They later call her and tell her it needs a new ABS computer and the power steering is leaking and needs to be repaired. The cost of the ABS unit was $750, total job was $1300. I told her to get the car out of there, which she did, without them fixing anything. I checked the garage floor and the car and could not find a single spot of power steering fluid, nor had she been topping it off.
Later, she took the car to another dealer and the ABS problem was a bad wheel sensor. Repair cost was about $250. She never did anything with the steering and 50K miles later, it's still fine.
Now, this case is just about impossible to chalk up to anything else but a crooked dealer. That car has two computers, one for the engine, one for the ABS. Both have readouts that store detailed data of what has been malfunctioning. In the ABS, it will tell you if a wire to a particular wheel is open, shorted, sensor is faulty, etc. It doesn't even have to be malfunctioning at the moment, as it stores historical data. One of the most basic things the computer does is it's own self test. It's hard for me to believe the computer would generate a code saying the computer failed it's own self test, when in fact it was a simple wheel sensor.
BTW, if I had a car that was out of warranty and facing a repair like this, I would go buy the unit that will interface the car to a notebook PC so you can read the info yourself. The one for my girlfriends car was about $300 at the time. With that in hand, you can fix more of the simple stuff yourself and know when a mechanic is BSing you.
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Like I said in my previous posting: "we buy all our tires through Tire Rack."
Also, we haven't switched dealerships because this one is less than two miles from our home. The next nearest is about 30 miles away. One reason to get service from a dealer, is re-sale -- I know I would be more likely to buy a used car that had a repair history with dealer receipts than with receipts from a local garage. Every person we know who owns a Lexus stays in the Lexus family; they love the vehicles, and love the service they receive. We've been more impressed with the Toyota service department working on our Sequoia (just routine maintenance) than with any other dealership, ever.
Randy Chicago, IL
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (Randy S) wrote in message

Then keep going to the same dealer, keep getting screwed and stop complaining about it. If a dealer had done half of what you say this one did, I'd have no problem in driving 30 miles to another one.
As for dealer records, I've sold a lot of cars and have yet to have a buyer want to see service records. I'm not saying it doesn't happen or it's not a plus to have them, but at what cost? And the car you're talking about is 8 years old. At that point, how much difference in resale price do you think it could possibly make to make it worth all the extra bucks you're putting into having it serviced at MB? And if I were looking at records, seeing it was serviced by a local shop that specializes in foreign cars would be fine by me.
I think you're looking at the trees and missing the forest.
Every person we know who owns a Lexus stays in the Lexus

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The dealers that used to give good service are flooded with M and C class Mercedes and the Service Department cannot give the kind of service long time Mercedes owners are used to. I have a 1991 560SEL which I love. I do not like the new S class, It has a cheap feel and look. Drives very well. I have a friend with a new model S 420 that had to have an engine replaced because the dealer was using the wrong type oil. At the present, the Lexus LS 430 is a superior car and it stings to have to say that. I have my 1991 serviced at an independent after the dealer became so expensive and also the mechanics at the dealer are not familiar with the older models in many cases. If I buy another new luxury car it will probably be a Lexus. Al
Randy S wrote:

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On 29 Nov 2004 21:32:16 GMT, (Randy S) wrote:

Does he have experience in dealing with Lexus dealers? He may be hopping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Mike
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On 29 Nov 2004 21:32:16 GMT, (Randy S) wrote:

I don't know if the USA is the same as the UK in this respect, but the UK Mercedes-Benz Owners Club publishes a list of garages and workshops recommended by their subscribers (you also get 10% club discount on spares and 17.5% off of labour charges). At 27:00 a year with a monthly magazine and fringe discounts (like insurance deals etc) it pays for itself in no time.
You are right to vote with your feet, but maybe getting rid of your nice car is overkil. Just move to a better dealer ;) Mike
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I suggest you have MBUSA involved in your situation... This is basically a crook operation.
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In a message dated 12/1/2004 9:07:22 PM, snipped-for-privacy@mindspring.com writes:

I know and understand that there will be problems with any aging car. I just don't expect to go in to the dealer to have a repair done, and leave with something else broken, twice, in a week, AND have them deny any responsibility. Then we bring in a car that they refused to do any work on a few months ago because of the "flexible service system." Now that the service warranty ended, there are $1500 in repairs that are needed? Please. I'm horribly disgusted with how Mercedes treats their customers. Based on personal experience, they are no better than Chevrolet, and much worse than Toyota and Honda.
Randy
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