How A Mercedes Benz Car Went From $47,000 to $11,000

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The new CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, Dietmar Exler, upon taking the role, said:

“You’d better have your act together regarding the culture you want to create, or the 300 new people will create it for you,” Exler says in the article published June 30.

Exler talks about immersing new employees in the company’s brand, about doing honest and critical evaluations (including of himself). This article shows the incongruence between what he said and the company’s behavior.  We gave them a few days to resolve this, rather than publish immediately to out them.

I’ve advocated using the Facebook for a Dollar a Day technique sparingly, outing companies only when they egregiously and repeatedly mistreat customers.

My friend bought a Mercedes Benz from the dealer for $47,000.  It’s now worth $11,000. This could’ve been avoided had the service crew accurately diagnosed the problem while the car was still within warranty.

To add salt to his wound, he was mistreated by the Executive Referral Manager of the Corporate Mercedes Customer Service.

Mercedes Benz team– contact me directly if you want this issue straightened out.  He has gotten the runaround from you and is exasperated. So he’s asking that I handle it for him until it’s resolved, which I’ll see it through.

Vehicle Details

  •      2013 Mercedes-Benz GL450 4MATIC
  •      VIN : 4JGDF7CE6DA147077
  •      Purchased Date : April 2016
  •      Warranty Expiration : March 2017
  •      Current Mileage : 46k

Purchasing the Vehicle (April 2016)

  • I tried hard to purchase Certified Pre-Owned from the Dealer, but the Dealer did not have this car and was a pretty hard one to get.
  • Got a good deal from MB in Oklahoma but the local dealer helped clarify that the cost of purchasing and transferring to TX would wipe out the savings, so I decided not to purchase a certified pre owned vehicle from MB Dealer.
  • I found GL 450 with the features I was looking for at a 3rd Party dealer and I purchased the vehicle

Service History (April 2016 – Oct 2017)

  • First thing I did after purchasing the vehicle was take it to the Dealer for a full checkup and servicing (spent  $1,000 on servicing and some accessories)
  • The dealer reported the car was in great condition.
  • Kept up all the follow up service appointments.

Relevant Engine Related Service Details

  • Took the GL to the dealer  four times with the same complaint “Rattling noise” (all four times) and Check Engine light (two times)
  • July 26th 2016 (Vehicle still under Warranty – Exp March 2017) – Rattling Noise – resulted in Warranty Repair

  • Nov 1st 2016 (Vehicle still under Warranty – Exp March 2017) – Check Engine Light – software updated, and coding cleared, based on past warranty repair.

  • This was an important event in the service history and the root cause. Had the technician conducted the same diagnosis that was performed in Sep 2017, they would have found the issue and would have been covered under warranty repair.

Based on the information given to me by the Dealer Service Manager, the issue with the Oil and Fuel leaking into the wiring manifests itself in different ways, and based on the sensor that detects fault codes are stored, and upon a certain number of “Key Turns” the check engine light will go off. And once the check engine light is reset, based on the nature of this issue, it is hard to tell when it will go off again, as there is no specific error code for this type of problem. So the “Check Engine” light may take a few days or a few months or a few years.

  • Sep 28th 2017 (Warranty – Exp March 2017) – Took the vehicle for Service B, and again talked to the service advisor about “Rattling Noise” – Diagnosis “Loose label on the Under Tray” no additional diagnosis was performed

  • Current Issue Oct 2017 10th 2017 – vehicle made a loud noise (like something was sucked into the front fan) and the Check Engine light came on. Called the dealer and made the next available service appointment (Oct 12)
    • This time a detailed diagnosis was done (This should have been done on Nov 1st 2016)
    • Upon completing the troubleshooting the service advisor called back with the following information

Regarding the repairs needed, what is causing the check engine light to come on is from oil/fuel traveling through the wiring harness in the engine and getting into the Engine control module, various sensors, injectors and other electrical components in the engine.

The engine in your vehicle operates at a high pressure to the fuel injectors in the engine and over time that pressure pushes fuel and oil (that is in the injectors to lubricate the injectors when the vehicle is running) through the wiring harness in the vehicle and that oil/fuel travels through the wiring to various components in the engine over time.

It is hard to tell what kind of time span it takes for that to happen with the engine running at such a high pressure to be able to determine if might have been something happening over time while the vehicle was under factory warranty still or possibly after the factory warranty expired by time but there isn’t a way to determine that.

Repair Estimate : ~$15,000

  • The service code or error code this time was something to do with “Fuel Injector Sensors” that was cleaned and the Service Engine Light was reset.
    • And service advisor told me that it is hard to tell when the service light will come on again, and what fault codes it would show the next time it goes off. This could be a few days or few weeks or few years.

  • I was shocked to learn this and that a Mercedes quality branded product would end up a lemon like this. I followed up with the advisor for additional information.
    • I was told this was a rare occurrence in these models, and about 5% of the GLs have this issue. The noise my wife heard was probably the engine misfiring or some electrical interference not any mechanical obstruction in the fan.
    • I was also told that there was no way of detecting the issue without opening up the wiring harness and cutting some of it to find the oil
    • I was scared that the Fuel / Oil thru the electric wiring system almost certainly is a fire hazard and was feeling lucky that the car did not catch fire or explode
      • My wife uses this car on a daily basis to drive my kids to their various activities
      • So i was thankful and feel very lucky that the car did not catch fire and the problem manifested itself as a harmless “check engine” light.
    • When I asked how safe is this to drive, i was told this was touch and go, and they could not establish any timeline on when or  if this would cause any additional failures and this may not be a fire hazard but it is hard to say it with certainty.
    • I was told if the vehicle was under warranty this would have been fixed for FREE
    • I was asked to contact Mercedes USA corporate customer service to see if they would make an exception here.
  • I called Mercedes customer service and they opened a ticket, and as promised I got a call back from “Executive Referral Manager a few days later.
    • I went thru the whole story with him and explained that the issue in question was not because of something that I could have possible done or due to bad maintenance history, as the vehicle has a clean history.
    • The root cause of the problem was manufacturing defect or failure in their quality processes, and that Fuel / Oil being pumped thru the wiring harnesses (which in my opinion is a serious issue that has a potential to cause major harm for the drivers of these models) as there is no way of detecting this issue till it manifests itself as “check engine” or “engine noise” or I am guessing the vehicle catching fire due to Fuel inside the electrical wiring systems.
    • Once the check engine light is reset (which was done in Nov 2016), it is hard to predict when it will come back on and what fault code it will show.
  • After about 2 weeks and multiple follow up calls from my side I heard back from the Mercedes Benz customer service representative. The Corporate Customer Service team, Local Dealer teamed up to help resolution of the issue, and here are the details of the resolution they came up with
    • The repairs were reprised at Warranty Cost of ~$12,500 instead of ~$15,000
    • Mercedes would cover about $4,000
    • I was on the hook for ~$8,500

To that the Executive Referral Manager told me that he had already heard this from me a few times and they had already considered all this when they offered assistance, and that the issue in Nov 2016 was different from the current issue, and that there was nothing more to talk as the case was “closed”.

I was surprised and I asked him if he had access to the “dealer service records”, he said “No”, he has access to Warranty records. So I told him that he should probably look at the dealer records to see what I am seeing and that I could send it to him if he gave me his email. He said he was not technical to understand dealer records, and refused to share his email (as he did on previous occasions). So I told him if he is the “Voice of Mercedes Benz USA” and the only person to take decisions in this regard he should probably look into this and be able to answer, how was this issue different from what was reported in Nov 2016.

At this point the Executive Referral Manager was getting really irritated, and was trying to get off the call, and close the case.

The next few minutes was the most interesting and pretty much sums up the support or service I got from Mercedes Benz USA.

I asked the Executive Referral Manager for his full name, he refused to give me his full name and said he was not authorized to share his full name.

He just used his first / nick name. I told him that he had all my contact details and all I had we as name and an extension number. And he never answered when I called that extension. I always got a call back from the 800 number. Other than that I had no way of reaching him or ask for any kind of escalation.

At this point he was really mad at me.

The Executive Referral Manager said “I will talk to the dealer service manager and come up with an Expiry date for this offer, it will be end of this month”

I stopped him and said, you just contradicted yourself, you said you will speak to the Dealer before setting the date, and now you just gave me a date. To that he responded saying “the offer is now rescinded”.

So in a matter of 30 seconds he went from “collaborating with his Dealer service manager to, unanimously rescinding the offer”. I am appalled by this and was shocked at how he turned this into a personal conflict an acted with total impunity and just like that closed all the doors from Mercedes Benz USA for me.

He was getting ready to hang up, so I asked him to send me a letter or email with the details of the decision and on what basis the offer was rescinded. To that his response was “I will log the request” and I kept asking him what that means and he just kept repeating “I will log the request” did not confirm if I will get a letter in “snail mail” or email.

The only mistake I did is to purchase Mercedes GL-450 and take it back to the deal for regular maintenance. And the service records and notes clearly indicates that this problem has been reported consistently on every visit since July 2016. 2 times while the vehicle was still under warranty and 2 times 6 months after warranty.

As of this writing the codes were reset by the dealer, and I picked up the car on 11/16, and have been driving it since, and have not seen any error warnings on my dashboard yet, while the Oil and fuel are making their way into wiring and potentially damaging electronic components of the car, like they did since July 2016 or before.

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About Dennis Yu

Dennis Yu is the Chief Technology Officer of BlitzMetrics. He is an internationally recognized lecturer in Facebook marketing, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, National Public Radio, TechCrunch, Fox News, and CBS Evening News. He is also a regular contributor for Adweek's SocialTimes column. Dennis has held leadership positions at Yahoo! and American Airlines. He studied Finance and Economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics. Besides being a Facebook data and ad geek, you can find him eating chicken wings or playing Ultimate Frisbee in a city near you. You can contact him at dennis@blitzmetrics.com, his blog, or on Facebook.