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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For most of us, how we feel about MBCA often depends upon our Section experience. Some Sections work hard to provide meaningful value to their members; some Sections are hit and miss; and, unfortunately, some are disappointments. Why is this? The answer is simple - national leadership or lack thereof. MBCA has lost its way and national leadership of MBCA has failed the MBCA members. MBCA leadership has abandoned the classic MB owner as the backbone of the Club; mismanages Club finances; has no plan for member retention or recruitment; does not hold Sections accountable for providing Members an enjoyable experience in pursuit of their Mercedes-Benz car hobby; and exhibits no competent leadership.

Despite all this, I hope you will stay the course with your membership. There are those who want to return MBCA to the Club it once was. It will take work and it will take time to make changes. But each member should have the opportunity to enjoy the best the Club can provide, whether it be local tech sessions, road trips, car shows, monthly meetings and camaraderie with fellow members.

So, I’m having an Eddie Chiles moment. Some of you may remember Eddie. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Well, I’m mad enough to run for national office as a director-at-large. I’ve served as a local Section president and board member, so I appreciate the ups and downs of Section management. I’m recently retired from a forty plus year career in executive finance, so I am willing to commit the time to affect change. On September 1, voting will begin for the election of four MBCA directors-at-large. Around here I’m known as SoonerCPA but on the ballot you will find me as Charles Woods. Please vote in this election and if you’re mad too, I would appreciate your help.
 

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1996 SL500, 2000 E430, 2011 E350
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5,436 Posts
For most of us, how we feel about MBCA often depends upon our Section experience. Some Sections work hard to provide meaningful value to their members; some Sections are hit and miss; and, unfortunately, some are disappointments. Why is this? The answer is simple - national leadership or lack thereof. MBCA has lost its way and national leadership of MBCA has failed the MBCA members. MBCA leadership has abandoned the classic MB owner as the backbone of the Club; mismanages Club finances; has no plan for member retention or recruitment; does not hold Sections accountable for providing Members an enjoyable experience in pursuit of their Mercedes-Benz car hobby; and exhibits no competent leadership.
I have been a member since - oh - 1995 and have seen a huge decline in local participation. For our Section size we used to be one of the most active in the country. We hosted StarTech, which, after a StarFest, was a huge undertaking.

I was a Section VP - then President for 10-12 years.

I would have to disagree with you on one thing - most of the problems IMO go to the Section level.

We used to have planning meetings every November, where 40-60 would show up at a restaurant and bounce ideas for activities the following year. We always had at least 1 activity a month; sometimes 2.

We had some rallies that I remember 20 years later - they were that memorable.

These days trying to get volunteers to host activities - or run for local office - is like - well, flogging a dead mule.

And it isn't just MBCA but social organizations across the spectrum.

People do not want to volunteer their time for whatever reason.

People join and expect a roster of activities ready for them.

It is sad to remember what my Section has and to see what it has become.

National leadership had had nothing to do with its decline.
 

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Now: 14 E350 Coupe; 86 560SL Then: 73 280SEL 4.5; 80 300SD; 82 300SD; 98 E350; 08 GL320; 11 E350
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have been a member since - oh - 1995 and have seen a huge decline in local participation. For our Section size we used to be one of the most active in the country. We hosted StarTech, which, after a StarFest, was a huge undertaking.

I was a Section VP - then President for 10-12 years.

I would have to disagree with you on one thing - most of the problems IMO go to the Section level.

We used to have planning meetings every November, where 40-60 would show up at a restaurant and bounce ideas for activities the following year. We always had at least 1 activity a month; sometimes 2.

We had some rallies that I remember 20 years later - they were that memorable.

These days trying to get volunteers to host activities - or run for local office - is like - well, flogging a dead mule.

And it isn't just MBCA but social organizations across the spectrum.

People do not want to volunteer their time for whatever reason.

People join and expect a roster of activities ready for them.

It is sad to remember what my Section has and to see what it has become.

National leadership had had nothing to do with its decline.
wlb50,
Thank you for your post. I served two tours of duty as Section President, so I share your perspective and the struggle. I agree with you, success or failure is determined at the Section level. But, this is where national can help. Regional Directors should be actively working with their Sections to help cultivate leadership, identify best practices. National leadership should be working to develop new ways to engage members. MBCA is totally absent in social media. Cutting the Section rebates is not helpful. The list goes on.
 

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It is both local and national. The folks at the top do seem more interested in pushing newer cars. Truth is, some of us don't buy new. I'm a roadster fan, own a couple 129's and am looking for a 107. Can't see wasting the money that the depreciation eats up, when a good used, low-mileage car is cheap and equally fun.

I'm currently at the end of my second, and final, term as section VP in the Carolinas. Currently, we're voting online. One candidate, unopposed, for each position. No young folks interested. We plan events that we think are fun. Prior to the pandemic, we did at least one event monthly, sometimes more. We work with adjacent sections for bigger events. I'm not sure that what is fun for all of us older, often retired folks, is what the younger folks are looking for. Not sure what the answer is. The new A, B, or C-class folks seem to view their cars as mere transportation (a concept that's never hit home with me). All they seem to care about is the status of the star on a car for which they paid way too much money. Young folks with families, mortgages, car payments, not much left for expensive events. Now that the club subsidies from the national organization have been eliminated or greatly reduced, local sections have less with which to subsidize events.

Dunno where it is going, and that's a shame. My wife and I enjoy the cars, but really enjoy the folks we see at the events. Fine folks from all walks of life. Shame if that all goes away.
 

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I have noticed as it was mentioned that most of these sections have their own personalities.

The greater Washington section loves or used to love driving events and will schedule many track events

we used to have rallies

I think the most hard-core club members are like you and me that have the older cars

and I think a part of the problem is those who have the newer cars lease them and are not as attached to them as an owner might be

We really missed a golden opportunity a few years ago Well to put it in perspective maybe 15 years?

it was suggested working with MB USA to give every new Mercedes owner-buying or leasing – a year subscription to the star and a years membership

MB USA was on board but our national board as I understand it could not agree

by the time they could agree the personnel change at MB USA was such that the idea was dead

and just think if you retained even one out of five buyers.

reason the rebates have been cut is because their income has been cut

our section president told us that they have hired a consultant

One of the things I find interesting in our club is it the demographics in the various sections can vary so widely

and with that you have very different sections

but our own section, for so many years one of the most active, is on the verge of dissolving

and the reason is we can’t get volunteers either to be officers or host events

i’ve been the newsletter editor in addition to my other past duties for 20 years

that gets old let me tell you

but I find also interesting is it clubs like the Porsche club seem to always keep going and again I think it’s demographics

more people who have Porsches tend to want driving events

there are people volunteering to host them

We were both founded in 1956 and yet it surprises me it’s so many Mercedes drivers have never heard of the Mercedes club of America
 

· Outstanding Contributor
R129 500 SL 1991
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2,320 Posts
... has no plan for member retention or recruitment...
I take this to mean - has no plan to change current member retention or recruitment policies, which is ostensibly shortsighted given the trends that you and Bill have been discussing.

I have just signed up as a new member of MBCA, and I was asked who recommended me to MBCA 👍. I said Benzworld.

I have profited (personally, in as much that I have not floundered owning an R129 SL) from the advice offered freely by the knowledgeable members of Benzworld, and I have tried to return the favor. It will be interesting to see what MBCA has to offer a member from across the pond, and vice versa.
 

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Now: 14 E350 Coupe; 86 560SL Then: 73 280SEL 4.5; 80 300SD; 82 300SD; 98 E350; 08 GL320; 11 E350
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It is both local and national. The folks at the top do seem more interested in pushing newer cars. Truth is, some of us don't buy new. I'm a roadster fan, own a couple 129's and am looking for a 107. Can't see wasting the money that the depreciation eats up, when a good used, low-mileage car is cheap and equally fun.

I'm currently at the end of my second, and final, term as section VP in the Carolinas. Currently, we're voting online. One candidate, unopposed, for each position. No young folks interested. We plan events that we think are fun. Prior to the pandemic, we did at least one event monthly, sometimes more. We work with adjacent sections for bigger events. I'm not sure that what is fun for all of us older, often retired folks, is what the younger folks are looking for. Not sure what the answer is. The new A, B, or C-class folks seem to view their cars as mere transportation (a concept that's never hit home with me). All they seem to care about is the status of the star on a car for which they paid way too much money. Young folks with families, mortgages, car payments, not much left for expensive events. Now that the club subsidies from the national organization have been eliminated or greatly reduced, local sections have less with which to subsidize events.

Dunno where it is going, and that's a shame. My wife and I enjoy the cars, but really enjoy the folks we see at the events. Fine folks from all walks of life. Shame if that all goes away.
Tom, thank you for your insights. My 2014 E350 Coupe is my daily driver and I plan to swap it for a 2020 E Coupe. It is good, reliable transportation, but that is all it is. I joined MBCA because of my classic MBs. My 107 is where my enthusiasm lies. Fortunately, our Section has a large number of similar thinking folks and, over the years, these guys have become some of my best friends. That has been my biggest benefit of MBCA. I want to see MBCA return to supporting the classic MB owner. I appreciate your MBCA service and I agree with you, I don't want the Club to go away.
 

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Now: 14 E350 Coupe; 86 560SL Then: 73 280SEL 4.5; 80 300SD; 82 300SD; 98 E350; 08 GL320; 11 E350
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I take this to mean - has no plan to change current member retention or recruitment policies, which is ostensibly shortsighted given the trends that you and Bill have been discussing.

I have just signed up as a new member of MBCA, and I was asked who recommended me to MBCA 👍. I said Benzworld.

I have profited (personally, in as much that I have not floundered owning an R129 SL) from the advice offered freely by the knowledgeable members of Benzworld, and I have tried to return the favor. It will be interesting to see what MBCA has to offer a member from across the pond, and vice versa.
romb.UK, thank you for joining MBCA. Your take on my comment regarding retention and recruitment is correct.
 

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I have made friends of many years through MBCA. And they all came about (for the most part) through local Section events. One one thing remained a constant through the over 20 years I have been in the Club: Only 10% or so of the Section membership ever attended local events.

Why?

I haven't a clue. Although our Section extends inland just below Sacramento to the Oregon border, so I can see why someone wouldn't want to drive 300-300 miles to attend a local event. (when we had them).

Now I will tell you something that I think helped recruitment - the First Sunday Drive. This idea was started by Robert Schilling of the San Francisco Bay Area Section, and I copied it. I can't for the life of me understand why other Sections had no interest it doing it.

How does it work?

It goes back to the basics of any car club.

We are having a morning drive.

No reservations needed.

This is where we are meeting.


We leave promptly at 10AM.

lunch is no host, and optional.

For that matter, join us anywhere along the route.


I did this for 5 years, one drive every first Sunday of the month.

Robert for his Section even had post cards made up and left them at dealerships.

Because membership in MBCA wasn't a requirement. One of the goals was recruitment.

Anyway after 5 years, I got a bit tired of doing this every month (you'd have a week off, then start scouting the next route).

Even wrote a "how to" for other Sections.

Anyway when I stopped, I was hoping that we could get people to volunteer to do just one drive a year.

We had a couple, then it petered out.

Getting volunteers, remember?

Now a couple of people wanted to revive it and we are having some nice drives. But again, when a few people end up doing all the work, it doesn't last forever.,

But we had some great drives, Some were regular participants but never wanted to join., I think we got some as new members.

I'll post the "how to" if anyone wants...

BTW did you know that MBCA is the only Mercedes car club allowed to use the star and wreath? I forget the story as to how that came about, but I think Bob Beltz had something to do with it.

One other thinkg about the FSD.

You think the club is comprised only of people who like the older classics?

Our FSD should be used for a Mercedes commercial. On a typical drive, not unusual to see an AMG-GT, an ML, 1960 220 Cabrio, my 1996 SL...on and on.
 

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How To Plan A First Sunday Drive

As I had started the FSD for Sacramento, due to the enthusiastic reception by Robert Schilling of the SFBA Section, I can offer you this simple “how to” in planning a drive. It is my hope that we continue having these, but they will only happen if others volunteer. I have come to believe that for one person to do this month after month is unrealistic, but if we have 12 people/year to host a monthly event as the SFBA Section does, it is very realistic. Other than a few people, we haven’t had any volunteers since my FSD “retirement”.

And yet I know you all enjoy them!

Over these 5 years, I have developed a system and a routine to bringing you a monthly drive. While my way certainly isn’t the only way, perhaps I can help you benefit from some of my mistakes, and what I have learned works.

A drive for me has some simple criteria. All roads have to be paved, and the drive should be from 2-2.5 hours before lunch. I have also learned that if we can have a rest stop about midway that is an added bonus, although some drives, like our Sutter Buttes drive a couple of months ago, make that very difficult. For that drive we would have spent another 45-60 minutes driving into Yuba City, and then departing back to our route.

For our area there are really 4 regions to consider for a drive. We have the Delta, the Valley, the foothills, and West towards the Napa Wine Country. I have tried to mix them up and rotate among regions each month.

Here is the process that I went through each month.

Look at a map!

This is where I always start. Of course we avoid freeways whenever possible – although we have used them to get from one leg to another (like a short drive on Hwy 20 at the Sutter Buttes drive).

I’ll have the basic route planned out with a destination before I ever get in the car for an exploratory drive. With a destination in mind, I will do a Google search to see what restaurants are at our destination. I will look at ratings, although you have to take a lot of those with a grain of salt.

Drive the route. I can’t over emphasize this. A road that looks good on the map may be less than stellar in real life. I can remember planning what I thought would be a nice drive around a reservoir. The AAA map showed what seemed to be a nice road, but when I drove it the pavement turned to gravel and then……I saw no trespassing signs. Keep your map in the car, and look for alternate routes. Or maybe you drove it before and think you know the way. The last drive I had a few months ago was to the Wise Winery on the outskirts of Auburn. It was a beautiful drive up the Garden Highway, east from Nicholas and up into the foothills. I must have driven it easily 5-6 times in the past.

I still drove it beforehand for this drive. In addition to a few turns that I had forgotten, a road was closed. So drive the route at least once before the run to get acquainted with it!

While I am driving the route, I pick random addresses along the way to provide a “bread crumb” trail when I plug the route into Google Maps (maps.google.com). Otherwise I have found when using Google Maps, trying to drag to the roads you want is like trying to herd cats. When making the map on Google, I save to a .pdf file which is what you get when I send you the email. First address is always the meeting point (usually a Starbucks) and last point is the restaurant.

You have mapped the route – it is a nice route – about 2-2.5 hours – now we find a place for lunch. Here too I have learned by some experience. For restaurant owners many find hosting a group such as ours a mixed blessing. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

You are in the restaurant, always ask for a manager. I had a nice drive planned out to Donner Lake, and we were to eat at the Rainbow Lodge at the Sierra Summit. I made arrangements with a waitress, she said everything would be fine, and I left. A few weeks later, I drove the route again, and stopped at the Rainbow just to make sure everything was still on.

The manager hadn’t even heard of us and said accommodating us on that Sunday would be impossible as they had booked a wedding party.

So imagine what would have happened had we showed up – all 30 of us, with no place to eat!

So ask for the manager, give them your name and number and it isn’t a bad idea to follow up by phone later to see if everything is OK.

OK, I was going to tell you why some restaurants don’t want our business – very few – but it is a legitimate concern.

You always have to tell the manager when you will be there (the date) – around 12-12:30, with a count of somewhere between 10 and 40! Oh, and everyone wants separate checks!

I tell them that I will give a count at 10:00 that morning (when we leave) and most are OK with that.

Now, as I mentioned, some restaurants would prefer not to have our business and for me that is fine. From our point of view it is a screening process and it has to work for both parties! There have also been a handful that say they want our business and then are completely unprepared when we come. The worst was in Columbia where we limited our choices to 3 (per the owner’s request), and when we arrived – within 5 minutes of my stated time) nobody was expecting us. It took us 2 hours to get served.

For those all you can say is that you tried, and note to self: Forget that place in the future!

I was also turned down by the owner of a wonderful restaurant at a Napa golf course and his logic was sound. He said with such an influx of people at one time service to his regular customers would suffer greatly.

It has to work for both us and the restauranteur and most are glad to have us – one owner even opened up her rustic restaurant for us on a Sunday outside Georgetown – I think a lot of you remember that drive!

Finally, some of you are concerned about making a mistake.

Don’t worry.

Someone in our group once jokingly said that “no drive is complete until I make a U-Turn!.

I thought it was pretty funny, and wasn’t “offended” in the least. It has happened very infrequently with me, but it has happened. That is why driving the course a week or so beforehand is so important. You memorize those turns – take notes if needed. Remember too you did the work for everyone’s enjoyment.

We are all out there to have fun, and occasional wrong turns are part of that fun.

Any questions just email me.

I have mentioned from time to time that I am glad to send any of you a DvD of my various drives in Google instructions. They are really a simple template to replicate. Of course, you should still drive the course and make arrangements with the restaurant at the end, but most of the work had been done.

I have so far received very few takers.

Having activities in the Club depends on you…

***

Rereading this for Benzworld I might add why I make the Google map. I convert it to an ascii file and send it as an attachment on the email list.

We always leave at 10AM. Meet about 9:30 for socializing.

It was a very successful program while I was doing it because of the work I put into the drives, and it was consistent. Consistency is important.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
This post is very tardy so please accept my apology as well as my thanks for all who voted in the recent MBCA election. With the help of the good members here, I’m pleased to say I was, indeed, elected as director-at-large (DAL). As a DAL, I represent MBCA members regardless of their location. So, please feel free to reach out to me if you have Club matters you wish to address. Again, thank you for your vote and support.
 
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