Quality of Mercedes Benz versus Daimler Chrysler
Ladies and gentlemen.
The question of Mercedes Benz quality, and it's adequacy is often mentioned in this forum and elsewhere. The problem with this is that most people define quality differently. Quality should be a measureable fact, defined by the producer or by an industrial branch norm like DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm). It seems to me that the DC (Daimler Chrysler Corp.) defines QC (quality control) with a broader focus than DB (Daimler Benz AG) once did. That means perfection is not the main parameter anymore, it's now just a factor sided with economy, profit margins, logistical requirements, standardization, and so on.
DB was once two manufacturers. Real hard times forced the two companies to merge in 1926. Not only were they competitors, they were also archrivals. But they spoke the same language, and shared culture. And had great potential for building fantastic cars. And to make a lot of money.
They focused on great engineering and technichal perfection, while still offering lower end products for simpler needs. One thing was common in a plain 170 and a luxurious 770. It did exactly what it was designed to do. There was sufficient quality, and there was surplus quality. One could follow a logical string in all parts used in the cars, big or small. And it was virtually foul proof. Just look at the status and reputation they gained.
Since the amalgation in 26, times have been better and worse, but nobody ever questioned the lads in Stuttgart, and their ability to produce. They have always been innovative and conservative at the same time, giving great improvements, but without losing the spirit and the "MB touch". No tricks or shortcuts. The spirit even survived may 45 and the not too great label, "producer of Gestapo cars".
Then came Chrysler. I don't know exactly why, where and when, but to my great horror, they actually merged. I think that led to a lot of chop work. And a culture crash. Of course the whole meaning of a horizontal merger is rationalizing production and resources. So whenever they detected identical functions, they chopped one. While it gave great effects on the current P/E, it was the chime to todays quality problems. It seems to me that Crysler was to learn engineering and design by MB lads, and MB was to learn how to shop parts and cut deals by Chrysler guys. Because in my experience, Chryslers have become better, while MB's have become "normal digital cars". Where they once were miles above, they're now right in it alongside with Renault, VW, and English cars. If you buy a Mazda 6 today, it will statistically have fewer problems than a W211.
As a child of the sixties, I know how big difference it once was between a Benz and normal cars. When you compare a 1968 W115 with contemporary compeditors, there's no doubt at all. Innovative engineering and conservative design. Commitment to the bone. W108/109 is the real Benz in my mind. With a M100 engine, nothing comes close in my mind. Or a W113 Pagode. Mmm. But that's because I'm born in 61.
I consider that all cars today are hybrids between analog and digital cars. If one accepts that as a fact, one can also gather that all production is in transition as well. That means the products are vunerable for errata similar to the PC industry in the early days. It took some time before IBM, Intel, and Microsoft got their act together. Likewise, the specification guys in Stuttgart may lack the necessary data and experience to correctly specify lasting digital solutions. So they will need more time to get it together. Hopefully not on your expense.
The goal of every car producer is to have one universal part that covers all their models. Just like the PC world. Look at the Jaguar X-Type and Ford Mondeo. Same platform/boby. Imagine a hole in every hood, made for a Chinese produced hood star. Then you could upgrade a Hyundai or Kia to a E-class Benz. Later you could continue to S-class. How does that sound?
Only potential buyers of new cars can contribute to rectifying this situation. The DB management of the sixties and seventies would never ever release such models as W211. They would boldly declare that the digitalization technics has not come far enough to be useable in a Daimler Benz. I just know they would.
Remember, it's BEFORE you buy you have ATTENTION. After the delivery, you only have attention. I would certainly demand a written clause in the contract with a guaranteed subsitute car whenever the car was away for "diagnosis". If I couldn't get it, I would steer away. I don't think it's unreasonable to have a certain "attitude" against electronic and mechanichal flaws. And owners must be sick of hearing about wiring harnesses needing changing.
If it were only electronical plagues, I wouldn't worry to much. But mechanical flaws flourish too. A big Norwegian newspaper recently received a Viano with less than 20 000 kilometers on the odo for testing and reviewing. The first thing they did, was to take it to the dealer, and swap a front drive shaft. The knuckle was mashed. Hmm.
Some areas are still pretty good. Safety is one. It is definitely safer to crash in a W211 than a W210. The W210 is safer than the W124, and so on. The S class is a real tank. And they do look nice, some of the new ones.
Watch out for "Chinafication" of production parts. I don't know where the current ECU's and other stuff are produced, but I suspect more and more are produced in Taiwan, China, and Korea. The actual quality might be good, and pay off logistically. But the production prosess will be harder to monitor. And the end result will be harder to guarantee.
So I blame Chrysler. I may be wrong, but it makes me feel better. I think. Just love watching Stratus owners trying to locate their battery the first time. And watch people lending a manual Voyager, and trying to start without depressing the clutch pedal.