If you pay a $50,000 car, you would not expect to have rust problems. But if it’s a 1999 Mercedes E320, think again. Before you say I’m paid too much, I was working two jobs in 1999 and splurged for a fancy schmancy car.
My Mercedes has a bad rust problem. More than 15 sizeable rust spots have sprung up, mostly around the trim in the two rear passenger doors and some on the front quarter panels (see photos). This infuriates me when I look at other nine-year old cars costing half a much that are rust free here in the Boston area. When the problem started, I e-mailed Mercedes via that little comments box company’s have on their web sites. They told me how much they loved me as a customer, but would take no responsibility for the rust problem. You know, conditions vary.
I called my local dealer who would not even look at the car until I squawked very loudly in the comments box and said I would write about the problem. It’s my guess if you really push them and threaten to make trouble for Mercedes, it’ll eventually do something (too late for me).
So after gouging me $155 for a new ignition key that I needed, I got my local dealer’s service manager to inspect the rust problem. He admitted much of the rust was the result of a Mercedes design flaw where moisture finds it way in behind the trim. Then he said Mercedes wouldn’t help out with the repairs because the car is more than eight years old. Mine is eight and a half. He estimated the cost of the repairs to be about $6,000 I had heard when someone screamed loud enough, Mercedes on occasion has paid half the cost for repairs. A local body shop estimated about the repairs at $1,800 a year ago, but the problem has worsened. That said, a Mercedes dealer is as expensive as it gets. The service manager explained that Mercedes rationalizes that I have already gotten “value received” out of the car and that they are obligated to do nothing. And this is a premium auto maker that prizes itself on reliability, status and precision engineering!!!?? And customer (Can’t Get No….) satisfaction!!!?? It’s hogwash just like Dr. Z in those once inane Daimler Chrysler commercials. I also called a Mercedes PR person given I am in the media. That person never returned my call.
It’s my contention Mercedes should pay ALL the cost given this is a problem its own making. That much rust never should have happened. Sure, there’s salt on the road in New England, but like I said, other cars do just fine here. What happened to my car seems to be a trend in German auto making. For reliability, they have ranked far behind their American and Asian competitors especially in the upscale and luxury categories, according to the ranking in Consumer Reports.
To be fair, my E320 is a joy to drive and has suffered few mechanical problems in the 184,000 miles I have put on it. Just the usual maintenance stuff – brakes, ball joints and changing the synthetic oil (a must) every 7,000 miles. Two cooling fans went under warranty and I had to replace two front end springs about 40K miles ago. I can’t think of much else. Even the exhaust system is the original!! The 221 hp V-6 still has good power and gets upward of 30 MGP on the highway. As a rear wheel drive car, it’s terrible in the snow, though.
No doubt, hitting 200,000 miles will be easy given its sound mechanical condition. But it’ll look even more like a rust bucket than it does today – hardly a good advertisement for a premium car brand. I plan on going to auto show in Detroit the week after next. Maybe I’ll have a word with Dr. Z then.