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Thoughts and insight about the car business

Mercedes-Benz Diesel by the Numbers: A Case Study

I’ve been thinking about gas mileage recently. It seems to be on people’s minds, it’s always been a factor when car shopping I suppose, but my experience this past week shows me that gas mileage really does affect a purchase decision, in some cases, even makes the decision. I’d like to discuss Mercedes-Benz diesel options first. One common objection to the diesel option is “It’s more expensive than gas” after my analysis I don’t think that’s a valid objection at all, you’ve got to look at the numbers.

On Thursday I had a couple come in and trade in their 2007 Chevy Tahoe in on a new GL350 BlueTEC diesel. They live outside the Twin Cities and commute in, easily putting more than 100 miles on their SUV everyday. They need the space of an SUV to haul kids and their stuff, a car isn’t an option for them.

Yesterday a previous Feldmann Imports customer came in with his 2008 Mercedes-Benz S550 4matic sedan that had slightly less than 14,000 miles on it and traded it in on a 2010 S class Hybrid because he feels it’s the responsible thing to do… trade in his big V8 for an electrically assisted V6 Hybrid, he wasn’t using the almost 400 horsepower in the S550 anyway. Hybrids are a great option and we’ll discuss the new Mercedes-Benz Hybrid options in greater detail later this month.

When I look around the showfloor at Feldmann Imports I see an ML450 Hybrid SUV, the gorgeous S400 Hybrid, the first hybrid on the planet to use extremely efficient lithium ion batteries. I also see the ML350 BlueTEC diesel, and then there’s the GL350 BlueTEC diesel. We haven’t received the diesel version of the new E class sedan yet, but it will be arriving soon enough this Spring.

I was at a board meeting for the Twin Cities Section of the Mercedes-Benz Club the other night and got to talking to board member Jim Walrath. He owns a 2008 Mercedes-Benz  ML320 CDI diesel. Jim is a Mercedes diesel disciple to say the least, each time I see him he mentions how much he loves the ML diesel. He related that on a recent trip from Northwest Wisconsin where he lives to Boston and back he averaged 30.1 mpg in the ML320 CDI diesel while on the highway, at speed limit speeds.

According to Jim the “overall average was a little bit less at about 27.6.  We put on quite a few miles of inefficient city driving so the average was pulled down. Total miles on the trip was 3007.”

Jim went on to tell me more about his ML Diesel, “We have made 35+ mpg on 55 mph highways in northern Iowa.  Overall our mileage has been in the 27+ range but we do put a lot of highway miles on it – is is our vehicle of choice on any trip.”

That’s quite a bit more than the window sticker on that car says. I wanted to do a little research because people often look at me skeptically at the dealership when I mention that the bold EPA estimates on all of the window stickers in our showroom are on the conservative side.

I consulted www.fueleconomy.gov, the website we were told to use last summer during the “Cash For Clunkers” craze when deciding which cars qualified or didn’t qualify for a government rebate for some answers.

I should first mention that starting with model year 2008 the EPA changed the way they test cars for gas mileage, taking in to account the effects of “faster speeds and acceleration, air conditioner use, and colder outside temperatures.” Basically, estimates went down.

According to the fueleconomy.gov website, the sticker on Jim’s ML diesel in 2007 would have said the ML320 CDI 4matic would get 21mpg city / 27 mpg highway. The sticker, for the same vehicle based on today’s ratings would say 19 mpg city / 24 mpg highway. And after talking to Jim I know that he gets slightly over 30 mpg highway and over 20 mpg in the city. No doubt, that’s good gas mileage for an SUV that’s got a gross vehicle weight over 6000 pounds and has a towing capacity of 7200 pounds.

According to www.twincitiesgasprices.com it only looks like diesel is about 20 cents more than premium unleaded, which you’ve got to put in every other Mercedes-Benz vehicle anyway. The gas tank in the ML is a touch over 25 gallons at 20 cents a gallon, so it’s about $5.00 more to fill up the ML 320CDI than a normal gasoline ML350 4matic that has the same fuel capacity.

It comes down to cruising range… according to published vehicle specs the cruising range of the ML diesel on 25.1 gallons of fuel is 577 miles. The same 25.1 gallon capacity in the ML 350 gasoline V6 only has a range of 477 miles. So, the $5.00 extra it took to full up the diesel looks to be money well spent as far as I’m concerned.

In my experience there seem to be two types of customers when it comes to Mercedes-Benz diesels. One is the customer who walks in and says “Where are the diesels? I want to go for a test drive” the second is the customer who responds, “Don’t even bother telling me about them, I don’t want a diesel, I’d never buy one.”

Mercedes-Benz has been making diesel powered vehicles since the 1930s, of course they’ve come a long way, the newest generation of clean diesel BlueTEC engines are the cleanest, most efficient diesel engines ever produced. They’re a far cry from the old 300SD from the mid eighties that would shroud its departure in a screen of black diesel smoke. The new diesels are winning awards around the world for their eco friendly design and they’re certainly worth having a look at.

“The Best Cars of 2010”: Double Victory for Mercedes-Benz with the E-Class and SLS AMG

While the SLS is a “Halo” car,  rare and expensive, unattainable for most people,  it’s a cutting edge super car that allows its manufacturer to push the envelope with performance and technological innovation, worthy of awards.

The E class on the other hand, for years, has been a well respected work horse for Mercedes-Benz and its owners around the world. It’s no real surprise to see that the 2010 E Class sedan continues to garner awards around the world.

I found this  article at theautochannel.com, a great source of international auto news.

MULGRAVE, AUSTRALIA – January 29, 2010: The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the best car in the upper executive segment, while the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is the best sports car. These are the results of a reader survey conducted by one of Germany’s well-known specialist car magazines, “auto motor und sport”. The E-Class and SLS AMG have therefore each walked away with the title “Best car of 2010”.

The editorial team of “auto motor und sport” asked readers to vote on some 326 vehicles across ten categories, and no fewer than 96,784 respondents answered the call to cast their votes in the traditional reader survey to find the best cars of the year. This is the thirty-fourth time that the respected specialist publication has conducted the survey.

In the upper executive segment, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class emerged victorious against the competition to claim its crown as “The best car of 2010”. In awarding this honour, the readers acknowledged the special position enjoyed by the E-Class as the most successful business saloon.

Among its many features, it benefits from a dynamic design, innovative technology, exemplary comfort, and also a high degree of economic efficiency. It also comes with a unique combination of driver assistance systems, including for example ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, and DISTRONIC PLUS proximity control together with PRE-SAFE Brake, which automatically applies emergency braking if there is an acute risk of an accident.

In the case of the sports car, the readers of “auto motor und sport” placed the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG in pole position, thereby honouring the new gullwing model as the best car of 2010 in its category, and as such paying tribute to both its uniquely exciting design as well as its advanced technology. This super sports car excels with its uncompromising lightweight construction, superior driving dynamics and exemplary safety. These attributes are ensured by a unique technology package consisting of a lightweight aluminium spaceframe body, AMG 6.3-litre V8 front-mid-engine with dry sump lubrication producing 420 kW of power, seven-speed double-declutch transmission in a transaxle arrangement and a sports suspension with aluminium double wishbones. This combination guarantees dynamic performance at the very highest level. The gullwing model accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds, and has a top speed of 317 km/h.

Source: theautochannel.com

New Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe Targets BMW 1 Series


I found this story at AutoGuide.com and it really peaks my interest, it’s the first press report outside of Mercedes-Benz that I’ve seen on the new C Class Coupe. I’ve always had something for Mercedes-Benz coupes, the new C coupe looks pretty cool.

“Mercedes will bring to market a C-Class Coupe to compete directly with cars like the BMW 1 Series and grab important entry-level customers. In mid 2009 the luxury automaker released the E-Class Coupe and now this C-Class coupe is expected later this year as a 2011 model.

Above is the first image of the upcoming 2011 C-Class Coupe, looking slightly stubbier than the E. And with no B-pillar to speak of, it not only looks sleek, but gives an obvious hint that a C-Class convertible is also in the works.

Power will reportedly come from a direct-injection version of the company’s 3.5-liter V6, as well as a smaller displacement engine with twin-turbos. Expect that motor to make roughly 300-hp.

In addition, an AMG version could potentially follow in 2012, using AMG’s planned twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 engine.”

Dave Knows Cars Reader Scores GLK Rental Car

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK available as a rental car in some markets.

I received an email from a Dave Knows Cars reader and Facebook fan today. In fact, he’s a good friend of mine from college. He travels a lot for work, overseeing the operations of a national building materials manufacturer. He spends a lot of time in warehouses, airports and rental cars… this week he got lucky and got a Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 as a rental car in Connecticut. I’ve pasted his email to me here so you can see his thoughts on the vehicle:

Hi Dave,

So somehow I got a GLK 350 yesterday as a rental car from Hertz with less then 2k miles on it. It actually worked out well, I flew into Hartford Connecticut and was driving over to Albany, NY for the day (about an hour and a half drive each way, couple hundred miles total).

The weather was bad, so I was happy to have an SUV, and what a nice one at that. I guess it’s been a while since I spent any time behind the wheel of a German automobile. The fit and finish was so solid, and talk about your creature comforts. I like that turnny knobby thing for controlling the stereo.

I think that the higher end car companies should work harder to get their cars in the rental pools. I mean honestly if I was in the market for a new ride, that drive yesterday would have done a lot to get me onto a Benz lot.

Unfortunately this nice score is probably going to be a big hit on the rental car karma and I’ll be in listening to AM radio in a yellow American made econo-box next week…

Technically, we  refer to the “turnny knobby thing for controlling the stereo,” as the Comand Controller, in any case, I’m glad he found it useful and intuitive. Since I’ve know him this gentleman has owned a Volkswagen Passat, a Mini Cooper S, and a variety of company cars, usually Chrysler SUVs. His wife is on her second or third Subaru. They seem like future GLK or ML owners to me… they just had their second child, a son. What better car to carry such precious cargo in than a Mercedes-Benz?

Mercedes-Benz Unveils E class Cabriolet at Detroit Auto Show


The new Mercedes-Benz E class Cabriolet was unveiled this week at the North American Auto Show in Detroit. It follows last summer’s introduction of the new E Class coupe and sedan. The E Class Cabriolet replaces the CLK Cabriolet convertible in the Mercedes-Benz lineup.

Like the E Class Coupe, the Cabriolet will be available with the 268 hp 3.5 liter V6 as the E350 Cabriolet. If you need more horsepower, it’s also available with the 382 hp V8 in E550 trim.

Like all E Class models before it, the new Cabriolet comes with an extensive list of safety and comfort features. including pop-up roll bars, and the company’s first use of headbag airbags. The E Class Cabriolet is available with the Airscarf option which incorporates vents in the headrest to keep your neck either warm or cool depending upon your environment.

The Aircap is another new feature available on the E Class Cabriolet, it’s a system consisting of a wind deflector mounted to the top of the windshield as well as draft stops inside the cabin. It keeps things calm and comfortable while the top is down.

Smart Car Buying is about Relationships, Not Cars

Long before I was in the car business, for years, my friends would call me and ask me about cars, what to buy and how much to pay. They’d tell me their budget, likes, dislikes, what they were looking for in a car, and I’d come up with what I thought were some good options.

Once I made my suggestions they were on their own, I didn’t know anymore than they did about how to work with a dealer, I didn’t even know any dealers to refer them to. That all changed in May of 2008 when I got into the car business. All of a sudden they could come to me.

Some of my first sales were to friends and acquaintances; I didn’t have an established clientele like the veteran sales people. I figured my friends knew me, they trusted me, I had to start somewhere. I always felt a real obligation to make sure they got a great deal on a great car and they did.

Soon I had old college friends coming from three states away to buy a new car (easily passing 4 or 5 dealerships selling the same product on the way!), friends I knew when I lived in Chicago 5 years ago driving 6 hours to buy used cars at Feldmann Imports. They were coming because all of a sudden they had someone in the car business that they knew and trusted.

My good friend David Pearlman came up from Chicago to buy this used Audi A4 at Feldmann Imports last Summer.

They all could have bought essentially the same car within a few miles of their home. It wasn’t about the car at all, it was about trust, it was about a personal relationship. By dealing with me they knew they would be dealt with fairly, without the games and B.S. that so many car buyers expect and dread.

All of a sudden a very bright bulb went off in my head… I need to treat every single customer I meet on the show floor like I treat my friends. Every transaction I enter into needs to be like these transactions. I need to be real, I need to be myself. I need to become everyone’s no nonsense car guy. I need to become a resource for prospective car buyers. I need to change the perception of the car sales profession one customer at a time. This is what I’ve been trying to do ever since.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for me personally is being greeted with such apprehension on the part of customers, and in many cases flat out hostility. It can wear on me if I don’t remind myself: it’s my job to change their perception of what I represent. I need to be the opposite of the guy they talked to at the other dealership they just left because they didn’t feel comfortable.

In general, I think I’ve been successful while striving to accomplish this goal. It’s funny now to think back on those customers that were apprehensive, even stand-offish when I approached them initially (and most are), when they come in for service in their new car months later and greet me with a huge smile and a slap on the back, “Dave, how have you been? How’s business?” You can’t put that in the bank per se, but it’s the best commission a genuine salesperson with a long term outlook can receive. It’s what makes me want to go to work everyday.

‘Finding and buying the right car should be fun an easy’ not a battle.