Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability
diagnostics at his family business,
Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician and Parts Specialist.
He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has
an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary
of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance
of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
Images Of Excellence, Quality &
Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Cadillac. Hearing those names evokes
images of excellence, quality and service. Or do they?
Although we offer many different carlines for sale, only in the past
two years have we been carrying the Mercedes nameplate. This week, the
service experience we encountered with the Mercedes dealer did not exactly
bring the images of excellence, quality and service to mind.
It all started a few weeks ago when we purchased a 2001 Mercedes
C230 4dr sedan with just over 12,000 miles. This particular car is loaded
including the Mercedes "Command" system that utilizes the driver's voice
to activate and control functions like radio, navigation and telephone.
During a test drive of this vehicle I noticed that the passengers front
power seat would make some forward and rearward adjustments on its own.
It was as if someone was sitting there fooling with the seat controls
while I was driving down the road. The only other odd thing I found was
that the keyless entry transmitter would not always unlock or lock the
doors. It too seemed to have a mind of its own. Knowing the car is fully
covered by the Mercedes bumper to bumper 48 month / 50,000 mile warranty,
I decided to call the local Mercedes dealer. (Not exactly local as they
are 35 minutes away). I called the service manager there as they had serviced
our cars in the past. We agreed on a date that would be mutually convenient.
As in the past the service manager made the same odd request: "Make
sure the car does not have any of your dealership logos on it or any window
stickers." I was familiar with this request since the manager had
mentioned it the last time we brought them a Mercedes to service under
warranty. "Doesn't go over well with the management," he
mentioned. Anyway, I made sure the car did not have any of our Giammalvo
decals or window stickers. When our two employees arrived there on the
morning of the appointment, no one in the dealership service department
knew about the appointment. One of our employees even called me from the
dealership to ask if I was sure I had the correct day. I told my driver to
ask for the service manager since he is the one I had spoken to for the
appointment on this day. After some confusion, the manager "found" the appointment.
My drivers left the car there and came back in our service van. I did not
think much about the Mercedes until a few days had past. I thought is was
odd that I had not received a call to say the car was completed. Our service
advisor called the dealership but the service manager did not return the
call. Finally, after four days had elapsed with no news, I called. I left
a message but the service manager did not return my call so I called again
on the fifth day. I finally got the service manager. I asked him what was
going on with our car. He told me there was "a little problem." What
could it be, I wondered? Well, apparently one of the owners of the dealership
was out front when our employee pulled up and got out of the Mercedes in
our uniform. Why would that cause a concern, I wondered? (Must I strip
the uniforms of our logos too?) What the heck is going on? Although the
service manager could not give me a direct answer, he alluded to the fact
that the owners do not like servicing cars from other dealers. As a result
he tries to "slip" our cars in without the owners knowledge, hence
all the "no decal" requirements. Now that the dealership owner knew
our car was there, he told the service manger to put our car "on the
back burner." Finally, after being their 11 days, the service
manager called me to say the car was done. Again, he had another odd request:
"you must pick the car up now." I asked him if he was
kidding. After all, it was 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and my drivers were
all out on errands for the day. Why should I have to rush and get the
car? Heck, it's been there for nearly two weeks, might as well wait until
Monday now. He told me that the owners had left for the weekend and it would
really help him out if we picked the car up while they were gone. Again I
asked why. What's the rub to the owner now? After all, he's been looking
at the car for 11 days, he knows it's there. What difference is waiting
another few days going to make? Again, no direct answers. Needless to say,
I rounded up two drivers to go retrieve the car.
Well, in the end I don't know what the big deal was. Kind of a jealousy
thing I guess. They get paid for the warranty work from the factory. Their
own internal Mercedes warranty procedures mandate that they honor the Mercedes
warranty as a prerequisite for maintaining their franchise agreement.
Oh well, I just think its amazing that in this day an age, and especially
given the Mercedes brand, that these games go on and on.
It is interesting to note that the warranty invoice came back inside
a nice Mercedes leaflet signed by the service manager. The leaflet stated:
"Our entire Service Department is committed to provide you with
the service you expect and deserve. As part of our Signature Service commitment
to excellence, we personally endorse the quality of the services we have
UPDATE: After researching Mercedes Benz
on the internet recently, I was amazed to see the amount of dissatisfied
owners out their with their own web sites (www.mercedes-benz-usa.com) The
amount of owners that have written their own Mercedes Benz ownership horror
stories on these sites is truly mind boggling. I was also stunned to read
the way the owners were talked down to by dealership personnel. I believe
that Mercedes will have to change there customer service polices in order
to survive in this new automotive market. Lexus and Acura's quality continues
to be untouchable and I don't see anywhere near the amount of dealership
complaints. Unfortunately, for Mercedes Benz, I think the damage is done.
I do not believe that they can recover from the poor handling of these customers.
Like Cadillac had to do after the bad engines and poor quality of the 1980's,
Mercedes will have to market to whole new generation of buyers.