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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #150: Mercedes-Benz thinks they can cut the crap

Only now can the full story be told: your humble author once seriously considered the purchase of a new C230K "sports coupe," as shown in the picture above. It was the summer of 2002. I went to the dealership, took the test drive, ran the numbers, talked to a bank ...
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact/avoidable-contact-150-mercedes-benz-thinks-t...
66 REPLIES 66
seinfeldbasslin
Intermediate Driver

the margin game is why Ford totally pulled out of the sedan game. its a trend thats playing out over the market in many verticals, not just autos, so this line of thinking makes a lot of sense and i agree that it is the right move for MB. would be a **bleep** separates a conspiracy theory from truth.
seinfeldbasslin
Intermediate Driver

**last sentence **bleep** separates a conspiracy theory from truth is two years. hagerty has very odd auto censors these days!
seinfeldbasslin
Intermediate Driver

i rest my case
Jack_Hagerty
Gearhead

In this case, it's an ACTUAL conspiracy from the vendor that provides our comment software.

I'm just not sure what the conspiracy WANTS?
Sajeev
Community Manager

Probably wants you to stop speaking all this bleeping truth to power, Jack. 

Snailish
Engineer

There's been some random part post replacements with bleep the last day or so.
Sajeev
Community Manager

It's a bleeping good time for everyone involved! 

CitationMan
Gearhead

And here I thought I was in a conspiracy free zone.
Oh well, I have no place else to go.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Bleep yourself to find THE TRUTH @CitationMan 😉

CitationMan
Gearhead

I can’t top that!

Tim
Technician

Sometimes the bleeping encourages us to seek out what earns a bleep and what doesn't, which might be the opposite effect intended. 😄

poop **bleep** ones would obviously be bleeped.
Tim
Technician

I just need to add for the record that there was a string of about ten words bleeped there. 💀 And none were the "Seven Words".
Sajeev
Community Manager

Feel free to seek the truth and tell me when you find it. Maybe we can beat the bleeping going on behind the scenes with tech support. Bleep you very much @Tim 

Snailish
Engineer

The random drop of a kudo to the 77 Cutlass made me smile. I'm not old enough to have appreciated them when new, but did grow up with 70s Cutlass and such being on the streets. My family didn't have any --I have no nostalgia for them.

 

I love them and think they are one of the best pure 70s designs. And one that holds up.

 

My younger than me wife disagrees and thinks they are ugly. 

Jack_Hagerty
Gearhead

Shame on her!
hyperv6
Collector

Market dynamics and economics have caught up with Euro brands in America.

The American luxury brands lived on low volume high dollar cars for years.Packard, Cadillac, Lincoln, Duesenberg, Piece Arrow, Cord and more
Did this and most have failed. Those who survived are those who went volume and lower cost. 

We get upset with automakers for what they do but yet they are only selling what the market is buying. 

Benz and BMW in America sold high end models yet since post WW2 they have sold tons of cheaper models globally for years. My father drove a Benz in Germany when he lived there. I was impressed till I saw photos. It was one of the cheap models. 

What hurts in America is these brands sell cheap models there and people are foolish to buy them as they can buy at a good price. But they find these cars are more expensive to repair as the dealer has only one labor rate. 

Porsche has gone the route of selling revamped VW models. The same thing with Lincoln selling re bodied Fords and Cadillacs with too much Chevy. 

People can rant but these changes and products are the results of our buying habits in the market. The automakers are only trying to survive. We complain about the CUV models yet 85% of the market is buying the willingly. 

The industry is about to be turned on it’s head again with EV models. How will automakers try to make EV models different and exciting? How will the public react to older EV models will they be worse than the resale of luxury cars today? 

No one wants old tech. I see this often as I still use an IPhone 3 for music on the sound system in the garage. I also have a IPhone 13 that is ten years newer but they are very far apart  in tech. How will this be seen in used EV models? 

If you really want to make money today never start an auto company. Best yo. Hold composite yard furniture. I was at a place over the weekend and they were like printing money selling plastic furniture. 

ed
Advanced Driver

THIS. "But they find these cars are more expensive to repair as the dealer has only one labor rate."

It's like this is some twisted part of the strategy - sell 'cheap' cars and make up for it with the need for services. In the mean time, for MB anyway, take a 50% hit in depreciation in 3 years. Until/unless they can balance cost to buy and cost to own, business will continue to decline. The wealthy don't care, but they won't save the company when owning one is a running joke.
Motorpsycho
Intermediate Driver

I respectfully disagree with your comment about makers only building what consumers are buying.
I believe that as a consumer, the makers force us to accept whatever they build that makes them the highest profit. Consider the marketing hype that convinced the consumers that SUV's were superior to station wagons. Same transport principle, but truck based SUV's were cheaper to build and mark up with add-ons, ergo, "luxury trucks".

My position is that consumers can only buy that which is offered for sale. Makers are only offering that which increases corporate profits. This is nit a public service entity, it is a money making enterprise.
My current occupation requires me to drive multiple brands and models and while few are truly awful, most are best described as adequate.
Therefore, the consumer's choice is somethingcadequate at a certain price point, or better at a much higher price point.
Economics makes more of the decision than " buyer's choice".
anatolyarutunof
Intermediate Driver

not quite 50 years ago a mopar hi-perf executive whose name was known in musclecar circles wrote about driving a rental plymouth with the same body style as the hot stuff he was in charge of. his comment was something like 'i can't believe we build this crap!' comment in r&t i think
kyree-williams
Detailer

I bet the products on the chopping block are the transverse-FWD ones: the A, B, GLA, GLB and CLA. And Mercedes-Benz will probably save a ton of money not developing another transverse-FWD platform; after all, it’s not like they have a plebeian volume automaker (as Audi does with Volkswagen and BMW does with MINI) with which to **bleep** $20K-$30K more than everything else.
RallyRaid
Detailer

When the Maybach 57 and 62 were announced, I remember arguing online with a Brit who thought it was the right decision to be a standalone brand; the purchaser would not want to be held in the same regard as a mere S-Class owner. My position was that the pinnacle of a brand with the cachet of Mercedes was far greater than that of reviving a defunct name and throwing a stupid hood ornament on the limo. And besides, surely the ego of the S-Class owner was more fragile, yet these models shared 

the road with identically-badged A-Classes - and commercial vans - and garbage trucks - and buses. So to some extent I disagree with the premise here, as Mercedes has been the maker in the widest variety of segments for the longest time.

 

However, I wholeheartedly agree that those contradictory propositions are killing the brand equity of the makers that used to have focus, BMW being the best example as it tries to become Mercedes. Surely the whole point of creating a successful Mini sub-brand was to allow BMW to sell conservatively-styled, resolutely RWD cars to people who don’t care about rear legroom. Consumers who need the space would then elect a weirdly proportioned 4 door Countryman, without risk of brand cannibalism. But no, apparently FWD 1 and 2 Series are required, in order to leverage platform investment and secure that last percentage of buyers, with no regard for the resultant diluted brand equity.

To summarise, the current state of manufacturers’ brand awareness is **bleeping** **bleeped**!

Sajeev
Community Manager

Sorry about the bleeps, we are working on a bleeping fix for this bleep, @RallyRaid

RallyRaid
Detailer

No problem @Sajeev - I’m not so proud as to think my opinions can’t be improved with a little help from malfunctioning code…
Snailish
Engineer

Very good point on the Mercedes garbage trucks and vans. I'm curious if perception varies on locale?

 

In my part of Canada we didn't see the vans until after the Daimler-Chrysler divorce so it was jarring to see a Mercedes badge on a Dodge Sprinter. They are a lot more common now. The big industrial Mercedes I feel like I never see. So 70s to 2000s Mercedes was pretty clear in vision here. 

 

I would even say that most people don't filter between the cheap Mercedes and the posh ones, but the cheap ones are out there and making a name for themselves (you paid a lot for that badge on that) and the idea that Mercedes has gone downhill has gained traction here as a result.

Motorpsycho
Intermediate Driver

Consider that the Postal Service bought a bunch of MB vans (they were low bidder) but had to paste an eagle over the MB star on the grill to keep the tax payers quiet....

Brand identity and the continuing image of MB as a luxury brand??
audiobycarmine
Technician

A Civic in lederhosen. Only not nearly as good.

And: "...bread-and-butter high-end stuff" ??
What bread, and what butter? Pate' from The Olive Garden...
TingeofGinge
Advanced Driver

"If a company as historically savvy and clued-in as Mercedes-Benz starts dialing back on affordable vehicles, that’s a message worth examining closely."

Didn't I read about VW doing something similar?

Why yes, yes I did:

"BERLIN (Reuters) - German carmaker Volkswagen will axe many combustion engine models by the end of the decade and sell fewer cars overall to concentrate on producing more profitable premium vehicles, its finance chief was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

"The key target is not growth," Arno Antlitz told the Financial Times newspaper. "We are (more focused) on quality and on margins, rather than on volume and market share."

Are the Germans the harbingers for a sea-change across the board?
Snailish
Engineer

Tingeofginge your comment is worthy of an article analysis if not someone's thesis.

 

If everyone retreats to their "most profitable margins" what does that landscape look like?

 

There is waste and costs in the many platforms overlapping products version of things we have now. At the same time, I like dealing with my local Ford dealer but they have no new car to sell me that has 4 doors. I'd buy a rebadged Accord from them no problem...

thibbledorf
New Driver

Points for the '77 Cutless, my 17yo self loved borrowing dad's '77 Cutless supreme brogham 350 on date night. Dark blue metallic.... I have a '78 240D, in the stable. One of two MBs and unlike our R170, it doesn't have disintegrating 'painted' interior plastics/dash. Thank you Chrysler for giving Daimler a new bottom to the barrel in those days. I don't think MB is going in the right direction. Over a million sold of W123 platform and the reliability and affordability of the Benz worldwide made the brand.
richard2
Detailer

Well, let's hope nothing compares to the 1995 Neon's abysmal track record for number of head gaskets and/or main seals that are required per year. We had one; great car, horrible motor. Even the local Chrysler service manager admitted the engine gasket/seals were crap.
Jack_Hagerty
Gearhead

It's still a better engine than the Porsche M96!
silentsod
Intermediate Driver

I got out of my M96 car before it had an engine eating failure. Perhaps I should have been free of worry as the car had made it to 100k mi but I never could rest easy when driving it.

I always worried about it in a way I never worried about my SC pulling head studs or any other issue (and at nearly a quarter million miles with numerous prior owners the SC had plenty of problems).
spdfreak
Intermediate Driver

I remember ordering my new 2002 C230 6sp and being pretty disappointed when I picked it up. It was my daily driver for less than a year before I traded it on a Dodge Ram. The transmission was worse, way worse, that my 1980 TR8. The sound system was worse too but the A/C was better at least. A 1980 TR8 was not a high bar to clear... I always wondered what their end game was by cheaping out so much that all you wanted to do was get rid of it without losing too much money. I haven't been in a Mercedes showroom since.
fueledbymetal
Advanced Driver

Spot-on commentary. In addition to diluting the Mercedes brand in general here in America, they went even further when they added an “AMG lite” model to every model line in addition to the real AMG cars. They then had the audacity the following year to tout that AMG sales were up some double digit percentage - of course they are when half your models are now AMG models!

So like you, I full support their return to a line of cars that are of top quality and/or capability.
Paul2k
Pit Crew

“ GLC-whatever (isn’t that a Mazda?)”.

Yes, yes it was… mine was a tan 1980 5-door wagon variant with 5-speed on the floor and RWD. “Great Little Car”. No power, but handling handling handling. 👍🏻
RJMatt
Intermediate Driver

I own a GL350 Bluetec as my only car. I've had MB off and on since about 1984, and still like SOME of the models.I know my vehicle is a truck, but used with 68K, it was a lot less money than a used Duramax with 250K on the odometer, and will still tow a 7,500lb travel trailer.
I've NOT been impressed by most of the "new" models with the 3 point star, but they are getting better. The seem to be trying to go back to fun and reliable driving, the two main things I enjoy.
HighwayStarr
Intermediate Driver

The wife's 2012 GLK350 is a nice little truck - sturdy and reliable, but a truck nonetheless. My dad's GLC300 is nice, but floaty and, well, ... dull. And I have fought like crazy to keep my 2011 E550 sedan on the road. It's a very pleasant beast and is loved only slightly better than my old 2008 C350 sedan. Both can really scoot. Personally, nothing below the E class interests me any more. Not the same look, feel, or appeal. 🫤

Bleep Mercedes! :^)

The A-Class is the current definition of cheap crap. But it says Mercedes on it so bow down before me you pleeb.

 

That car needs to go away. A Camry or Accord is a better choice for the money but doesn't have the snob appeal.

DavidHolzman
Advanced Driver

That C230K looks like they put an imitation Benz grill & peanut headlights on a Hyundai from the mid-'90sl
MrKnowItAll
Advanced Driver

The problem with Mercedes is that Lexus built a better Mercedes. They've been trading on a reputation from the 1980s for 40 years. Those in the know have switched to Lexus.
ATLpaul
Detailer

.

CABRIO-STEVE
Intermediate Driver

At the risk of generating an “OK Boomer” response, my confidence in the management of a company which I have worshipped since my teenage years is low after the sale of of one of the most important pieces of their history for a quick buck to finance research on climate change.
And yes you made the right choice- the C230 “Kompressor” was a piece of junk; I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough.
Jack_Hagerty
Gearhead

OK Boomer... you're right!

🙂

I looked at the sale as precisely equal to the purchasing of indulgences from the Church eight hundred years ago. I bet a lot of men who didn't believe in any sort of higher power whatsoever dutifully cashed out the Pope and his minions so they could pursue their own goals without interference.
Rider79
Technician

"The Bucket Of Humiliating Plastics" - love it!

"Let’s hope I’m just wearing a tinfoil hat here" - yep, the previous paragraph sounds like a conspiracy theory, at least in the USA, especially since M-B is a European company.

1977 Cutlass Supreme coupe - wish one could buy a car like that now, with modern mechanicals and safety features. Or, a 1976-77 Regal coupe, like my dad bought new; what a cruiser, complete with beautiful Buick chrome wheels!
Jack_Hagerty
Gearhead

The closest thing they make to a '77 Cutlass Supreme now is an S-Class coupe. Maybe the LC500. There's something really depressing about that.
CardiffGiant
Pit Crew

BMW 8 series coupe is more Cutlass than the Cutlass!
Stradakat
Intermediate Driver

I think what MB is really saying in their press release is that they intend to focus more on building expensive SUV/crossovers. Don’t get your hopes up that they mean more luxury sedans. Those don’t sell very well these days. Hence, the proliferation of “tall cars” like the Porsche Cayenne. Porsche is in business to make money, rather than simply making sports cars at a loss for a handful of well-healed enthusiasts. That would be a death wish for the storied marque. They have earned the right to build 911s, Caymans and Boxters because the Cayenne and Macan pay the bills. Smart. So Adapt or die. That is the law of the jungle, the free market and of the auto business. Like it or not.
Snailish
Engineer

The moment any of the "storied" sports car or luxury brands exists under the umbrella of an all-markets company the need to sully the brand to pay the bills argument no longer holds merit to me.

 

Daimler-Chrysler was wise with the 300, Charger and such Mercedes component sharing.

 

Overlapping Mercedes with any of the price bracket offerings of the less-premium brands in that company was not necessary, and I feel ultimately detrimental to Mercedes.

Jack_Hagerty
Gearhead

The Cayenne and Macan never paid for any Porsche sports car. Surely nobody on planet Earth is naive enough to think that Porsche loses money on their sports car lineup, none of which could possibly cost more to make than, say, a Ford Expedition MAX yet most of which sell for 2-5x that much.

Seriously. The 911GT3 is about as quick as a base Corvette, costs 2.5x as much. That's a recipe for profit, not a charity run out of the goodness of Macan buyers' hearts.