Dear Mercedes AMG: Stop apologising for your squeaky brakes and just get the engineering right

Mercedes-Benz says its squeaky brakes are a 'characteristic' of the vehicle. They call it a 'feature', and it's all your fault. I call BS...

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This report is a warning to you about the stark reality of Mercedes-AMG ownership. You’ve lusted after it; here’s the reality.

THE OWNER

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Meet Con Botsioulis - a recent Mercedes-AMG purchaser (right).

Mr Botsioulis slammed more than $150,000 on the table on August 31 last year. He drove off into the sunset in a Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. This should be an entirely happy story.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

The honeymoon was over within a week. The brakes had started squealing, annoyingly, and they didn’t stop. It became a consistent, nagging pain in the arse in normal traffic. There’s no dispute on this - the dealership and Mercedes-Benz agree the brakes do, in fact squeal.

They even changed the brakes. (The pads and the rotors.) And three weeks later - they started squealing all over again, like Groundhog Day.

This car squeaks like Edward Scissorhands in a world without WD-40.

Note: This is not an isolated example of extreme customer disservice. I also reported on appalling treatment for one S-Class owner >> and on similar disgraceful treatment for a CLA owner >> 

FALSE PROMISES & BULLSHIT MARKETING

C 63 S AMG costs $170,000 on the road, today, in ‘Straya. Mercedes-Benz says this is a car that (quote) “declares war on the laws of physics” (that’s on page 27 of the brochure).

"Declares war on the laws of physics" - Mercedes-Benz claim

The company promises (quote) “innovation after innovation” (that’s on page 28).

Actually, I almost drowned in personal lubricant on page 28, where they claim it will allegedly (quote) “defer completely to your demands - from extremely sporty to pleasantly comfortable”.

"Defer[s] completely to your demands"- Mercedes-Benz claim

Such a gap between the promises of engagement and the reality of marriage.

If you paid $60 grand for a Kia Stinger, or $80 grand for a Hyundai Genesis, and the brakes sounded like an ex-wife discussing the child support, I’d want that fixed. This would not be negotiable.
 

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On a $170,000 halo car from the most up-itself brand on earth, I’d want it fixed ten times quicker, with a generous side-serve of sincere contrition. Benz actually claims the car will deliver:

 
“Pure sportiness, coupled with excellent design.”- Mercedes-Benz claim
 

They also advise you to:

 
“Prepare to be inspired, surprised and thrilled”- Mercedes-Benz claim
 

On this last quote, I'm sure Mr Botsioulis remains surprised. But I guess one out of three is … well, it’s not even a pass.

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AN ORGY OF EVIDENCE

Mr Botsioulis provided me with a raft of documentation: photographs, sound spectrum analysis of the squeal, he sent me half a gig of video clips and seven separate e-mail chains between him and and various Mercedes-Benz luminaries.

In any case, the fact that the brakes squeal does not seem to be in dispute. It's the response that's incredible.

Mr Botsioulis even contacted Horst von Sanden, the big bratwurst of Benz here in Shitsville (right). Mr Von Sanden was so interested in resolving Mr Botsioulis’s problem that he personally replied thus, on February 14:

"Thank you for your email. Please continue to liaise directly with our Customer Assistance Centre in regards to your case."  - Horst von Sanden, big cheese of Mercedes-Benz Down Under

I’m inferring Mr von Sanden is not exactly consumed with empathy on this. Or perhaps he requires 20 or 30 of these a day and vaguely dismissive form letters are unavoidable.

WHAT THE DEALERSHIP SAID

Lee Matenga, the dealer principal of Mercedes-Benz Toorak, which sold the car, at least responded in greater detail:

 
"I would like to be clear that “Brake Squeal” is a “characteristic” of larger high performance brakes, the likes of which are fitted to your C63s. Depending on conditions and use these vibrations which are caused by the larger than normal brake pads can emit a frequency that is identified as a squeal. Naturally we don’t make customers aware of such characteristics as driving conditions/methods and circumstances all contribute to your concern." - Lee Matenga, dealer principal
 

CUSTOMER 'CARE'?

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific sent Mr Botsioulis the following official response:

 
“We are pleased to confirm that the investigations have concluded that the concern you have reported is not the result of a manufacturing concern. The brake squeal you are experiencing is a characteristic attributable to external influences such as driving style and road conditions.” - The clumsiest and most self-serving customer service response I have ever seen
 

And that, if you ask me, is a 12-foot-tall birthday cake of unadulterated bullshit right there. I’m sure they are pleased. Mr Botsioulis - not so much. He drives in Melbourne - Australia’s second-largest capital city.

He drives between work and home in the city. His driving style is entirely consistent with what any reasonable person would consider ‘normal’ city driving. Certainly compatible with a car designed to defer completely to one’s demands.

Chris Mayes, the dealership sales manager told Mr Botsioulis, in writing:

 
"...brake squeal on your Mercedes-AMG C63s Coupe is a feature of the vehicle as it is built with the sole intention of being a high performance vehicle" - Chris Mayes, sales manager
 

ABSURDITY WRIT LARGE: ANNOUNCING 'SquealTRONIC-plus'

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This is of course absurd. (Personal opinion.) Squeal-TRONIC Plus is a feature. Really? Like Bluetooth, only serving no purpose beyond annoying the shit out of you. A feature. That’s like calling the practise of making a collection of human ears in the refrigerator at home, ‘hobby’.

It seems to me entirely contradictory for the dealership to claim the squeal is a characteristic of high-performance brakes, while Mercedes itself claims it’s all down to the way Mr Botsioulis drives. You’d think they could at least line up their bullshit cue cards and get them straight.

And why did they replace the brakes the first time if this squealing business is just how they are? Riddle me that.

Mr Mayes’ claim about ‘the sole intention of a C 63 S being a high-performance vehicle’: The brochure makes it pretty clear that’s not the case. It’s a friggin’ halo car - people with too much money buy them and they drive them to work as a means of stroking their egos.

What a pity they lost the Battle of Resonance in this alleged war on the laws of physics.

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CONSUMER LAW

If it is, as the sales manager alleges, squealing like a pig because it is built with the sole intention of being a high-performance vehicle, then it should come with appropriate disclaimers for people who might mistakenly buy it only as a status symbol on the false premise that it will also be refined daily transport.

Under Australian Consumer Law, owners are entitled to a replacement or a refund (at the owner’s discretion) if the vehicle has a major problem. The ACCC says defining characteristics of a major problem include:

 
"A problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it [or] if it doesn’t do what the business said it would, or what you asked for and can’t easily be fixed." - Australian Consumer Law definitions of a 'major problem'
 

I don’t know about you, but I would not buy a $170,000 halo luxury performance car if it meant sounding like the worst Chinese bicycle under brakes in traffic. That would matter to me, considering the sum involved.

I call bullshit on this determination. Squealing incessantly is simply not a reasonable operational characteristic this car. It’s just not. Reasonable refinement is not just expected, or implied. It is explicitly promised in the brochure.

Why not simply develop an alternative set of brake pads for situations like this, you Mercedes-Benz Muppets. It’s called ‘meeting customer expectations’.

WHAT DO THEY TELL PROSPECTIVE CUSTOMERS?

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This, of course, made me wonder if Mercedes-Benz actually bothers to advise prospective customers of this important operational characteristic. This feature. So I called the flagship AMG retailer and asked:

When I opened the door as wide as it could be opened on the issue of driving the vehicle normally and my requirements for refinement and luxury, and even when I asked specifically about brake squeal if driven normally, I was specifically told that this would not be an issue (full details in the video).

It seems to me that if customers are not alerted to the existence of this characteristic - this alleged feature - even when they ask, it is at best deceptive conduct on the part of the retailer. Surely they are required to grow up, and ensure they supply a car that suits both your expectations and requirements?

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CONCLUSION

I don’t know about you, but as a car nut, I certainly feel the gravitational pull of the three-pointed star, and the coveted AMG badge. I’ve been lucky enough to drive - I don’t know - a couple of dozen AMG road-test cars. They’re all brilliant dynamically and great to look at.

The ownership reality, however - as you’ve just seen - it’s not worth the risk. The detail design is half-baked, and the customer support mentality … I think it’s fair to say that Mercedes-Benz believes it has some special post-purchase imprimatur to be judge, jury and executioner.

To the ACCC, the corporate watchdog, I would say, simply: ‘Can you hear that? It might sound like a pig with its hind legs held aloft, but it’s actually the sound of opportunity knocking. What are you waiting for?

Mercedes-Benz is gagging for a regulatory pull-through. Why not sell tickets? Make it a spectator event. I’d pay to see that.

Check out the latest Mercedes-Benz recalls >> from the ACCC's website, and see what Honest John in the UK has to say on the infamous Mercedes-Benz 'crabbing' problem >>

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