Mercedes-Benz Launches BS-Class

The exciting new standard in elite customer experience ... for all the wrong reasons

The exciting new standard in elite customer experience ... for all the wrong reasons

When you fly first class, they make you feel special for the duration, not just on boarding.

How would you expect to be treated, as a Mercedes-Benz luxury flagship S-Class owner?

This is a report about corporate arseholes, arrogance and audacity; about the apparent presumption that selling the three-pointed star means you just don’t have to comply with Australian Consumer Law.

It’s about regulatory soft-cockedness, too, if that’s a word, and the disconnection between the prick-tease promise of marketing and the grim reality of ownership. It's about how Australian Consumer Law is supposed to work, but doesn't.

It’s why the Benz brand will continue to be little more than an A-grade confidence trick in 2017, and a soft target in my jihad on bullshit.

The "masterpiece of motion" - except in terms of customer care

The "masterpiece of motion" - except in terms of customer care

This report is my honest personal opinion.

Unless specifically named, all references pertain to corporate and government entities. No comment about unnamed individuals is implied or intended.

Two weeks before Christmas, a Perth-based Mercedes-Benz S-Class owner named Jan Gunnink contacted me.

Mr Gunnink’s S-Class suffered an engine mount failure, causing the vehicle to vibrate severely.

He wrote:

WHAT MERCEDES-BENZ SAYS ABOUT S-CLASS

Outrageous. This is the flagship Mercedes-Benz saloon. A car those arrogant cocks themselves describe as a (quote) “masterpiece of motion”.

Keyword: 'Masterpiece".

A car those arrogant cocks say:

At the risk of labouring the point: A car those arrogant cocks say is an:

Australian Consumer Law promises reasonable post-warranty durability guarantees, but effectively carmakers write their own ticket

Australian Consumer Law promises reasonable post-warranty durability guarantees, but effectively carmakers write their own ticket


Nauseating, isn’t it? But let’s test that claim. The exemplar of all saloons, of which no other car can offer more. Really?

To me, a failed engine mount is unfortunate, and kinda trivial, no big deal. It’s a part. You can change it.

However, if I own the friggin’ ‘exemplar’ - I don’t want to wait forever for that part. I mean if I buy some rubber dogshit online from my favourite purveyor of plastic animal faeces in Hamburg, I can get it delivered by DHL in three of four days. Half the world away. Surely Mercedes-Benz could do that? So that’s strike one.

BENZ'S REFUSAL TO CARE

But trust me: Strike one is just a warm-up. Three weeks later Mr Gunnink got back to me after making independent representations to Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific. Here’s part of their response:

It's always undignified when regulators and ministers are asleep at the helm

It's always undignified when regulators and ministers are asleep at the helm

The full response is even more nauseating corporate bullshit from the same hymn book. It’s like getting a form letter from a fluffer.

Disgusting and disgraceful.

But here’s the bit that is truly unconscionable. Did you pick it the first time? 

“MBAuP is unable to cover all operating expenses beyond the manufacturer’s warranty terms and condition.”

My translation: ‘We think we’re above the law on this.’

AUSTRALIAN CONSUMER LAW

Click this image to learn more about Australian Consumer Law from the ACCC

Click this image to learn more about Australian Consumer Law from the ACCC

On the first of January 2011, Australia ushered in a new set of consumer laws called, intuitively enough, Australian Consumer Law. Part of this legislative reform - which applies to Mr Gunnink’s S-Class and (essentially) all other goods and services bought from January 1 that year - part of that is a statutory guarantee of acceptable quality enforceable against the suppliers (ie the dealership) as well as the manufacturer.

That means the car - or whatever else you buy - must be free from defects, durable, etc., according to the standards of a quote-unquote “reasonable consumer”. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been very clear on this point for six years: This guarantee exists beyond the warranty period, for the “reasonable consumer” expectations of durability.

Section 54 of Australian Consumer Law compels the court to consider the nature of the product, the price of the product, and the statements made about the product by the retailer and/or manufacturer/importer. What this means is: consumers can expect longer periods of durability from relatively expensive products that claim to be superior to average products. This is not my interpretation - it’s a Federal Government law in this country.

An example given to the press by the ACCC in 2011 to publicise the new laws was a TV. If consumers have a reasonable expectation that a TV will last five years, then the statutory guarantee exists well after the one-year warranty expires. More expensive products making more grandiose claims about quality are held to a higher standard under the law.

Having engine mounts less durable than a Toyota Corolla's is a bad look for the big, bad Benz flagship

Having engine mounts less durable than a Toyota Corolla's is a bad look for the big, bad Benz flagship

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

So I ask you, as a reasonable consumer, how long do you think an average engine mount in an average should reasonably last? The average warranty in Australia is three years or 100,000 kilometres. So average manufacturers think their engine mounts should last 100,000 kilometres. Seems fair. After all, they’re not a Jedi’s light saber; they’re just metal plates with rubber fused between.

How about the durability expectation for a “masterpiece of motion” that’s “all about feeling good”? The “dream car”. The “guiding light for a whole sector”. Of which “no other car can offer more than the exemplar of all saloons”? I’d want to get more than 48,000 kilometres out of those engine mounts. Certainly. That’s a reasonable expectation.

So here’s what’s happened: We’ve got a dealer hiding behind the manufacturer. ‘Hey: they said no - it’s out of our hands’. Retailers are specifically not permitted to do that - and yet it goes on all the time in the car industry. We’ve got a manufacturer - correction: presumptuous, arrogant, arsehole manufacturer specifically claiming - in writing - that the consumer laws do not matter to them. Like they’re guidelines, or something.

“MBAuP is unable to cover all operating expenses beyond the manufacturer’s warranty
terms and condition.”
Nobody is policing the car industry's compliance with consumer law - the ACCC is the great Australian Gummy Bear of corporate regulation.

Nobody is policing the car industry's compliance with consumer law - the ACCC is the great Australian Gummy Bear of corporate regulation.

REGULATORY FAILURE

I’d submit not only is Mercedes-Benz able to cover some operating expenses beyond the warranty, in many cases covering those expenses is a legislated f@#$ing obligation. Newsflash, you arseholes: you are not above the law. Either comply or piss off.

The reason this situation exists - for Mr Gunnink and thousands of other car owners nationally - is that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is worse than just useless. For six years now - though gross inaction - it has allowed the car industry to continue to ride roughshod over consumers as if the 2011 legislative consumer reforms simply did not occur.

The ACCC fails to acknowledge the fundamental asymmetry inherent in any consumer taking a car company’s refusal to the next level. Who do you reckon can muster the most legal representation? The ACCC simply fails to act - the great regulatory gummy bear - and in doing so it constitutes a disgraceful betrayal of Australian consumers: the very people it is required to protect. That’s your tax dollars at work.

Click this image to go straight to Ms O'Dwyer's website where you can make your opinion known

Click this image to go straight to Ms O'Dwyer's website where you can make your opinion known

THE MINISTER

Kelly O’dwyer is the Federal minister for revenue and financial services, and in my view, she is far from the most effective tool in the Australian ministerial shed. She has disgracefully allowed the ACCC to continue to sleep at the wheel as far as the car industry is concerned on her watch. You can contact her using the details (right) on Facebook and Twitter, or by telephone or e-mail. Feel free to tell Ms O’dwyer what an ace job she’s doing … or not.

To Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific I’d say two things: First, it’s deplorable to see a bad corporate citizen in action. The law does apply to you, however ineffectively it is enforced. Simply getting away with murder because you can in a lax regulatory environment damages your reputation and it turns away potential customers - especially the easiest and cheapest sales conversions in the business: Repeat customers.

Bear in mind this story would not have happened if Mercedes-Benz had decided to do the right thing.

Bear in mind this story would not have happened if Mercedes-Benz had decided to do the right thing.

CUSTOMER CARE FIASCO

Consider the profit in a $250,000 S-Class against the marketing benefit of - at most - a few hundred dollars worth of complimentary engine mount and labour.

Mr Gunnink would have emerged from the dealership extolling the virtues of a customer support culture entirely in line with the promises stated by you about the S-Class.

Instead, you took a pineapple and inserted it without lubrication - or regard for your legal obligations - into Mr Gunnink’s anus. Over a few hundred bucks. It’s inconceivably poor form.

Do you suppose Mr Gunnink would have contacted me if his anus had remained untouched by that fateful pineapple?

The imbeciles at Mercedes-Benz (opinion) have baked a cake of moral and ethical indefensibility, iced it with bullshit, and perched a glace cherry of stupidity on top. A work of anti-marketing art. If the aim is to be viewed as complete corporate bastards, and turn customers away - they’re exactly on track.

If you’re on the cusp of buying a premium German car, this is certainly something to consider.

ONE MORE EXPERIENCE FOR THE ROAD...

Shortly after posting the above report I received this anti-testimonial in a similar vein from a jaded E-Class owner named Manny:

To add to your story:

In 2008 my W211 E350 was just out of warranty. Long story short I had a knock in the front end while braking when the outside temperature was above 30 degrees. Upon inspection I found that the L/H side lower control arm bush on the front axle carrier side was wet with oil. New to me at that time, I had to research this as I had never come across rubber bushes filled with oil; anyhow I read up that they are used as they will give you a much smoother ride over bumps & knocks on the road due to the oil being used as a cushion. 

I googled this fault and found that Mercedes had stopped using oil filled bushes on their front ends because they leak oil then make knocking noises (metal to metal contact) so they went back to a full rubber bush like the previous model. Mercedes USA acknowledged the problem and started replacing faulty units on W211 cars with full rubber type bushes. I don’t think it was a recall but I read that they were replacing these parts on a good will thing F.O.C. to customers outside the warranty,

So I went to Mercedes Benz Melbourne knowing all this but did not let on. I wanted to see if they would fix the problem like the yank dealers. They took the car for a drive and came back and said it is something in the front end and that if I leave it with them they will disassemble the front end and find out what parts are worn… on a 48,000 km car that’s never seen a dirt road or a pot hole???? As if they did not know the what the culprit was if I found it by myself with the help of the internet. Anyhow I asked how much for this and they said budget for about $2500.

So I purchased updated replacement (full rubber) bushes for about $30 each and did the job myself for next to nothing.

For NVH and engineering the E-Class cars were the best, streets ahead, they had no competition 10 years ago. Don't know if the new ones are as good. But their dealerships are BIG crooks, I feel sorry for the majority of owners that cannot fix their cars. But MB Australia are not alone, I have owned new Holden, Fords, BMWs etc, all the dealerships must have gone to the same school of lies and deception. My W211 has never ever had work done on it at a dealer and never will, not even an oil change. 

THE BMW EXPERIENCE

This comment by e-mail from Stephen...

I'm usually too lazy to comment but I can totally relate to the fellow with the E class benz with the rubber mounts problem. I NEVER get the dealer to do anything. I have an E53 X5 V8. It needed a new computer module to run the ABS and all that stuff. My local independent BMW service guy contacted the Adelaide BMW dealer. Price $3200 just for the part! I got on the internet and ordered an OEM Bosch unit from a supplier in Germany for $650 delivered to my door. The dealers are just thieving crooks. I dont mind businesses making a profit. That's what business is all about. But this is just pure unadulterated GREED. By the way, I'm sure the supplier of the unit from Germany made a profit as did Bosch when they sold it to the supplier!

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