Mercedes Walks it Back

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A few months back, Mercedes and I got into a little tussleostensibly over the distance between my place in Southwest Virginia and the place where Mercedes maintains its press fleet, up in the DC area. Mercedes PR told me that the distance was too great for them to continue sending me new vehicles – press cars – to test drive.

But it had not been too great a distance for the prior 20 years – which is how long I’d been regularly getting Mercedes vehicles to test drive. So I knew it wasn’t the distance. Especially when the Mercedes PR guy I spoke with about it would not tell me how far is too far? I asked him to please tell me what the maximum allowable driving distance is to get Mercedes press cars to test drive. Is it 100 miles from the place where Mercedes maintains its press fleet in DC? Is it 50?

The PR guy would not answer – which told me it was not the driving distance that was the problem; if that weren’t so why not tell me? If it were 50 miles or 100 miles and I could bridge the gap, then it would not be a problem – assuming it was the driving distance that was the problem.

In fact, it was the driving distance – in a way.

Mercedes went all-in on EVs, promising to make the Great Transition to exclusively battery  powered devices by around 2030. And it is too far to make the drive from where Mercedes maintains its press fleet and my place in Southwest VA in a battery powered device.

At least, not without one long stop – to recover some charge – along the way.

And there was another problem. Even with the one long stop, the Benz device would arrive at my place without much charge, because my place is about 30 minutes away from the nearest not-so-fast charger (where it takes 20-30 minutes to recover a partial charge). After driving from there – up the mountain, an elevation gain of about 1,500 feet over the course of about three miles of winding road – the device would arrive at my place without about 60 percent of a charge, which isn’t much to drive on.

I duly reported these facts about Mercedes’ device in my reviews of them. And that is the real problem Mercedes had with me. And it’s why my press car access got rescinded. It won’t do to have car jockeys like me telling the truth about the devices Mercedes, et al, have bought into.

Because, of course, people might not buy them.

It doesn’t help that a Mercedes device is like any other device – except for the price. Why pay $30,000 more for the plastic three pointed star when a device is a device? I tried to explain that to the Mercedes PR guy, too.

Well, Mercedes may finally be coming around to my point-of-view.

According to an article in Automotive News, Mercedes is “warm(ing) to ICE vehicles as EV growth cools in the U.S.” The subhead adds: “Mercedes expects to sell about 50,000 more coupes, sedans, crossovers and SUVs in the U.S. in 2024 compared with last year.”

None of them devices. All having engines. Which makes them Mercedes vehicles rather than just another device with a “Mercedes” badge and an inflated price. I not only could have told them so.

I did.

There is no future for “Mercedes” devices because only an imbecile would spend an extra $30,000 to get a device with a three-pointed star that looks and drives almost exactly the same as a device made by Hyundai, for instance. I recently wrote a review of that device – the 2024 Ioniq 6 – which is visually and functionally almost indistinguishable from the device Mercedes offers for about twice as much. That device – the EQE 350 sedan – is as much a “Mercedes” as a “Pontiac” T1000 wasn’t a rebadged, higher-priced Chevy Chevette.

And at least both the “Pontiac” T1000 and the Chevy Chevette were serviceable transportation appliances.

Devices aren’t even that – because of the time suck spent waiting for them to be ready to able to serve as transportation and the hassle entailed by having to think about when, where and how long all the time.

Say what you will about the Chevette and its “Pontiac” T1000 clone; they both could take you 300-something miles on a tankful of gas and didn’t take 20-30 minutes to partially refill their tanks. Also, Pontiac didn’t have the effrontery to charge twice as much for the same thing sold under the Chevy brand label. But prestige-brand manufacturers of devices like Mercedes apparently think people with Mercedes-Benz money are dopes enough to be willing to spend twice as much on a device with a “Mercedes” badge over a near-identical device that costs half as much that has a Hyundai badge.

Well, “cooling” growth – of device sales in the U.S. – is a clue that people who have Mercedes money aren’t dopes enough to spend it on devices that are not-much-different from other devices, except for costing tens of thousands more.

You used to get something very different when you spent Mercedes money on a car with the three-pointed star. Such as a magnificent in-line six, for instance. Or an even more magnificent V12. But a battery is a battery – as a cinder block is a cinder block. You can change the shape and the price but it’s still a cinder block. No one cares – more to the point – no one will ay extra – for the robot’s “signature” that placed it on the skate.

They eagerly paid extra for the signature of the expert engine builder who hand-assembled the Mercedes V8 or V12 that’s under the hood of a Mercedes.

Because it was worth it.

Hopefully the Mercedes PR guy is reading this. I hope so. But even if he isn’t, Mercedes seems to be headed back on track.

And that’s vindication enough for me.

. . .

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44 COMMENTS

  1. “The PR guy would not answer – which told me it was not the driving distance that was the problem; if that weren’t so why not tell me?”

    Probably because that PR drone isn’t allowed to do so. But regardless, saying nothing says everything.

  2. Hi Eric,
    Your example with “range” being quoted as a reason is clear example of standard behavior in coorporate world. Average office worker has at least 6 or 7 lies like this told every day.

    I understand free speech but there should also be a mechanism where you swear on your life or something else and if absolutely proven wrong you will loose it. Currently even witnesses who lie on the stand are rarely punished.

    • Hi Pupet,

      One of the interesting – one of the revelatory – things is the incongruence of things. One the one hand, if a manufacturer of cars (not devices) falsely advertises that its cars will deliver 40 MPG when in fact they only deliver 36, that manufacturer will be raked over the coals. But manufacturers of devices (EVs) get away with grossly misleading advertising about the range of their devices. The latter routinely go 20-30 percent less far than advertised, which ought to be prosecuted as fraud.

      Yet, nothing happens.

      • Hi Eric,
        If we look at it like that Elon should have been in prison bunch od times by now regarding ton of stuff he said. And he said way bigger lies than few horse power weaker engine.

  3. This too funny. Maybe they thought you would talk about getting the car with a dead battery and having to wait 24 hours to charge it on your house line.
    Anyway, I decided to check out Mercedes for my wife’s car. I go to their site and you have to actually poke around to find the few remaining non-EVs. And site navigation is rigged to keep pushing you back to the EV “adds”. I bet if they really go all EV they will lose 1/2 of whatever their current market share is. There is stiff competition in the EV market because so few people want them but the car manufacturers are desperate to sell them.

    • Hi Matt,

      Yep. Among other things not being explained to people by the car press (or the press, generally) is that if you have not upgraded your home’s electrical panel to accommodate a new and separate 220V circuit on its own 30 amp breaker, you will be waiting a day or more to recover about 30 miles of driving range. And even if you do have “Level II” capability, it’s still several hours to recover a partial charge. Yes, you’re at home. But you’re still waiting hours – however long it takes – to be able to drive the thing again.

      Hardly a “luxurious” experience.

    • What is most ironically amusing of all this hullaboo, about not just Mercedes, but any transportation company making electric “devices” for consumers driving needs. It’s easy to yell at Mercedes or Ford, GM or any other company doing this, but who is really at fault???

      GOVERNMENTS, worldwide, are the true driving force behind REQUIRING and FORCING car companies to make these kinds of vehicles, not consumers.

      Please, PIN the TAIL on the DONKEY….

      Rant over….

      • I put just as much blame on the manufacturers as the State. Why, because they all whole-heartedly go along with the game because they’re all promised government contracts, good press from the CIA-run media, and tax payer bailouts. So screw these “industries,” time to end them return to consumer-based markets again.

        • “…time to end them return to consumer-based markets again.”

          I’d much prefer a CUSTOMER based market. And yes, there is a difference.

  4. Mercedes seems to be headed back on track.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe that for a second. I think it’s only a tactical partial retreat, where the goal is to stay afloat long enough to figure out how to make governments force people to buy dEVices.

    If, however, Mercedes-Benz decides to discontinue its current range of range-challenged dEVices and shelve its plans for future ones, then I would be willing to believe it.

  5. There’s the old saying about leading a horse to water but you can’t make it drink….Companies can make whatever they want (or whatever the government tries to force them to make and offer) but consumers will stubbornly buy what THEY want – and can afford.
    Then there’s that saying about history repeating itself, if you don’t know your history. Apparently automakers forgot all about the “New Coke” soda fiasco. And then there is the cost – the average working person has little or no high end or designer items because he or she can’t afford them and refuses to spend good money on more affordable things that get the job done just as well.
    Automakers have ignored these truisms at their peril!

    • It could be, Lee, that these companies made EV’s, with the hopes that they would have the government’s help in forcing Americans into them against their will, by banning ICE vehicles, their maintenance, and the shutting down of petrol. As that has not happened, thankfully, the EV industry is finding themselves going bankrupt, and I say good riddance.

      • It hasn’t happened yet, but make no mistake – it will happen. And the automakers themselves will be the most ardent proponents of an ICE ban. Why? Out of necessity – they’ve all bet the farm on dEVices, and desperately need an artificial market for their battery-driven penalty boxes, or it’s game over for them.

    • Mercedes failed to acknowledge theres a new snob trrrrrrinket in town. The one attached to THE officially sanctioned gubmint grifter par excellance.

  6. I am glad that Mercedes is finally listening to you. I mean, why walk around with the “status” of being a Mercedes Benz owner with a mere, EV engine, when you cannot go anywhere with it, or enjoy the feeling of it driving fast? Hell, why bother, when you can drive an old crapper 4-cylinder ICE vehicle that ends up being more reliable in the long run? At least the battery will not run you $20,000 bucks when it needs replaced, and you can go farther and faster on a tank of gas than a charge. Also, you could probably run the heater or the a/c while driving, without wondering if you are going to get stranded in BFE in the process.

  7. “But prestige-brand manufacturers of devices like Mercedes apparently think people with Mercedes-Benz money are dopes enough to be willing to spend twice as much on a device with a “Mercedes” badge over a near-identical device that costs half as much that has a Hyundai badge.”

    This: While there are exceptions, people with Mercedes money generally don’t get to have Mercedes money by being foolish with their money. Which brings me to this: I once heard that the majority of high-end cars are leased. Some are leased because the people who drive them know that after about 5 years/50,000 miles, luxury cars will need expensive repairs/maintenance, and don’t want to be stuck with them; plus one of the things that make luxury cars luxurious is that they’re “the latest thing,” and after 3-5 years, they’re no longer the latest thing. Others are leased by people who really can’t afford them.

    Now there was a time when a Mercedes Benz was a value proposition as a luxury car: A 300D could cost twice as much as a Cadillac DeVille: But it used a lot less fuel, was put together better and used better materials, didn’t break down as much, and not only wasn’t it falling apart in 3-5 years, it wasn’t out of style.

    That’s no longer true today, and is especially untrue with EVs.

    • Over the long term, those old Benzes, the 300Ds, were far less expensive to own. They ROUTINELY went 500K miles! During that time, you’d have four or five Caddies.

  8. The whole auto industry has lost its mind.

    The only real customer has become NHTSA, IIHS, the EPA, Euro NCAP, and all the other .gov hangers on.

    Here’s to hoping the industry comes to their senses before they implode the whole industry.

    A good start would be for Mercedes to discontinue their cancel culture activism by apologizing to Eric and a reinstatement of press fleet usage.

    Don’t hold your breath. The woke hive mind is now fully in control of the industry.

    The only way out of this is via non-compliance. Don’t buy new cars. They will get the message . . . Or let it burn.

    • ‘A good start would be for Mercedes to discontinue their cancel culture activism by apologizing to Eric and a reinstatement of press fleet usage.’ — Burn it down

      Or, failing that, for Eric to borrow a Benz from a local dealer for a test drive, then go all Bruce McCall on it:

      ‘McCall wrote advertising for Ford and General Motors, which led him to create brilliantly satirical American cars such as the Bulgemobile Blastfire, the Ticonderoga Custom El Mocambo station wagon, the Glamoramic Polo Lounger Funtop, the Atomikar and the Bongo Beatnick Ferlinghetti Turbo-Hipster.

      ‘As a British car guy he took pride in his time with his Ford Anglia, Morgan Plus 4, and Triumph TR-3; those experiences led him to create mock test drives of the Denbeigh Super-Chauvinist Mark VII Saloon, “the performance of which was not torrid but beautifully matched to the brakes, which fade as one.”

      ‘He poked fun at the language of owner’s manuals: “Attempting to drive your car with a pedestrian underneath can cause uneven tire wear, front-end misalignment, binding of the steering gear, and damage to the catalytic converter in your exhaust system, creating an environmental threat that may increase the danger of global warning.” ‘

      https://blog.roversnorth.com/2021/03/behind-the-steering-wheel-winter-2021/

      ‘Auto’ makers, wallowing in their own failure, constipation and obsolescence, deserve our merciless mockery and contempt until they disappear for good.

      Maybe Mercedes can partner with Adidas to make three-thousand-dollar S-class sneakers with a three-pointed, flashing LED plastic star and a high-tech LIDAR dogshit detector — the heighth of fashion! No more stinky embarrassment! Batteries not included.

    • Here’s to hoping the industry comes to their senses before they implode the whole industry.

      I think it’s too late, and that Toyota and the Chinese automakers will be the only ones left standing. I also think the impending implosion of the Western auto industry is very much an intended consequence of automakers being forced to throw good money after bad on technology that is unfit for purpose.

    • Hey Burn it down. Younwrote what I was going to say. I hope that as the shit hits it, that ceriain states declare themselves ICE sanctuary states and a cottage industry of new NHTSA and EPA non compliant vehicles is born.

      • It absolutely will happen. Sooner (I hope and pray) or later (after a profound period of misery and poverty). But happen it will. We’re dealing with barbarians who only know how to break things. The soviets had to ignore the black market to survive as well as they did. We won’t be any different.

  9. Recent TV ad: snarkman in an EV whirs past a guy fueling his ICE car. Ad for idiots, or as my dog would say idjits.

  10. I wonder how much the dealers are pushing back? Most German automobiles are these finely tuned devices that, while they don’t break down per se, they do require a fairly elaborate maintenance schedule that can lead to major costs down the road if not adhered to. While there are plenty of Specialty shops who will take the time to lean the various idiosyncrasies of your Benz, most of the time you’re going to be headed back to the dealer service dept. where you’ll pay up for oil changes but at least you know your car will continue running.

    EVs theoretically don’t have a maintenance schedule, outside of changing gear lube or flushing the coolant once in a while. Certainly not the 3 month/3000 mile oil change schedule with “BTW, this other thing is due soon too” regular revenue that the maintenance schedule generates. My guess is that many dealers earn more profit from the service bays than the showroom, and anyone with half a brain wouldn’t want that to end.

  11. One of these days there’ll be a great awakening & many throughout American history will be vindicated. Eric, Ron Paul, John C. Calhoun, and many, many more.

  12. ‘Mercedes seems to be headed back on track.’ — eric

    As is Hertz:

    ‘Car rental operator Hertz reported it lost another $200 million due to its EV gamble.

    ‘In its first quarter earnings report, Hertz said it “upsized” its prior EV fleet drawdown plans by an additional 10,000 EVs, which led to the company incurring a $195 million charge to vehicle depreciation for writing down the value of EVs held for sale.

    ‘Hertz previously said it would sell off 20,000 EVs from its fleet, meaning it will now dispose of 30,000 EVs in its fleet through the end of 2024. Add today’s charge to the $245 million write-down taken in Q4, and the company has now lost $440 million on its EV gambit.

    ‘Hertz’s EV fleet, which once stood at 60,000 EVs, will be cut halved to 30,000 EVs. A third of Hertz’s EV fleet was from Tesla, with the rest coming from Polestar, Volvo, and Chevrolet.’

    https://tinyurl.com/hx2stycz

    This all got started just 18 months ago, when Hertz CEO Stephen Scherr and GM CEO ‘Eee Vee Mary’ announced a delusional partnership in which Hertz would order up to 175,000 EeeVee from GM over five years.

    Now that lurid fantasy lies in ruins, after Scherr (a lawyer from Hahhhhhvid, natch) stepped in half a billion worth of electric dog poop and got fired last month.

    But come on, come on down Sweet Virginia
    Come on, honey child, beg you
    Come on, come on down, you got it in ya
    Got to scrape the shit right off your shoes

    — Rolling Stones, Sweet Virginia

    • This is a prime example of how utterly disconnected the elite are from your average joe. Ten minutes of brainstorming would have shown the absurdity of the entire scheme.

      I’m in a rental car. In nearly all cases this means I’m away either for work or travel. I’m already in an unfamiliar place. I’m probably a bit more stressed for this reason alone as unfamiliarity adds to baseline stress. Now I have to also figure out in this unfamiliar location, what the local EV charging infrastructure looks like? If I don’t have an EV at home this is a -non trivial- task as I’m totally unfamiliar with the basics of how this even works.

      Lastly, I’m traveling, time is of the essence. I have to be at the client, at the conference, at the meeting in the case of work. I’m on vacation, I want to make sure I can see everything, go everywhere, do as much as possible in the short time I have on vacation. So I -definitely- want to loiter around a charging station for 25-45 min. every few hundred miles… 🙄

      These people have drivers, chaffeurs, and pilots, their feet in an almost literal sense never really touch the ground, so these basic considerations are beyond them. They have absolutely no idea what the concerns of the average joe are, they are nearly a different species entirely at this point. The Hertz boondoggle simply confirms what has long been known about the upper echelons of corporations and government. They live lives entirely divorced from your average person’s reality.

      • The useful idiots are the ones who think it can work.
        The elite as they are so-called know full well BEVs can never work on a fleet wide basis. That’s why this push exists with no intention of doing what is required to even have them sort-of-work for some people some of the time with difficulty. They don’t want ordinary people having effective private transportation. They want to put the genie that Henry Ford released back into the bottle.

        • Absolutely. Back when I had a model T I also had a lot of great books from when T’s were current things. People today are seldom aware of the hate and fear engendered by effective transportation. They forget about the laws passed requiring 5mph or less and a flag bearer walking in front of the “Infernal contraptions”. And all the battle axes who were so worried about morality when people could date in a car.

      • You can bet that someone put together a spreadsheet showing how some percentile of renters only drive under the EV’s rated capacity, and another column showing the number of renters who return a vehicle and just pay the exorbitant cost of letting Hertz do the refueling because it just goes on the expense report. Probably even used a few cells that turn green automatically too.

        What they didn’t take into account is that the published distance isn’t anything like the real world travel distance, and that people don’t want unexpected events when they travel, especially for business. Go with what works. If that means you skip the local cuisine and stick with the chains, so be it. At least you know you won’t spend the night in the hotel bathroom.

        One of the big faults of IBM in the 1980s was the rise of the overhead projector “foils” that were used in presentations. They distracted from the actual content with pretty pictures and bullet points. With Powerpoint and Keynote (and many others) required for any presentation, along with slides and maybe a video or two, the decline actual content in American business is astounding. Charts and graphs, expertly manipulated to produce a positive response are what count, not actual work. Hopefully the idiot who hatched the rental EV project will be shuffled off to work on “new ventures” never to be heard from again. But these days it’s useful to fail upward. Sure, you failed. But you convinced corporate to try your stupid idea, and that’s not nothing…

  13. Years ago Denzel Washington (I believe) was on some late night show when the host noticed his watch. He was asked why he was wearing a Casio/Timex sports watch instead of a Rolex or some other high end time piece. His reply was, in effect, “It keeps perfect time. Why should I spent thousands more only to get the same result?”

    Pragmatism trumps fashion in the minds of the rational.

    Same with EV’s.

    • BINGO! Though I collect watches, I stick with mainly Seiko, Citizen, G-Shock, and Casio. I know, I know; G-Shock is part of Casio, but it’s become its own brand. Anyway, one of my favorite watches is the Casio AE1200. For $30 or so, I get regular time (which has FOUR selectable time zones, BTW!), world time (48 cities in 31 time zones), stopwatch, countdown, and multiple alarms. It looks cool, is +/- 30 seconds a month, and it tells time better than ANY Rolex ever could!

    • Watches are different though. If one is geeky about watches the expensive mechanical watches are much more than a device that tells times. If one isn’t into the watches the differences don’t matter so much.

      • Very true. I know a guy who loves to take them apart and fix them He could probably buy a nice car with what he’s got in watches!

        I can’t judge others for their purchase decisions- I’ve owned French, German and British cars!

        • At least there is nothing Italian on that list. They teach engineering there with only earth, fire, air, and water in the periodic table…

      • I have a couple of mechanical watches. I have two Seikos with 4R36 movements, and I have an Islander ISL-187 with a Seiko NH36 movement; the NH36 is basically an unbranded 4R36.

      • I appreciate watches such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, VC, AP, Blancpain, et al for being the mechanical works of art that they are. I also appreciate what they mean to horological history. I have no problem with those who own and enjoy different versions of the Rolex Daytona, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, etc. That said, I wouldn’t want to own and wear a luxury watch.

        One, the servicing costs for luxury watches are high. Mechanical watches need servicing, so one must budget for that. Two, I’d feel funny about wearing something that costs as much as a motorcycle, car, or a house on my wrist. Three, one can often find good substitutes for pricey, classic watches; for example instead of an Omega Speedmaster, one can get a Bulova Lunar Pilot instead. Four I’d feel absolutely HORRIBLE if I were to bang it against the door jamb or something! If I were to do the same with one of my G-Shocks, I wouldn’t care; they’re built tough anyway. But to do the same to a work of art like a Rolex Submariner? I couldn’t live with myself!

        I appreciate, admire, and respect luxury watches. They’re works of art that made hological history. I wouldn’t care to own one though. That’s what makes watch collecting so wonderful though; there are so many different ways to pursue this wonderful hobby!

        • I’ve always been more of a utility watch wearer. These day I sport an Apple Watch but it took several generations until I was convinced it was a useful device. I understand the desirability of an heirloom quality watch, but I really have no need for one. Maybe I’d wear it once or twice a year, Christmas church services and maybe if I’m out for an extremely special occasion. And like a cell phone, I have no desire to hang on to the older models. Trade ’em in or sell them on, to me they aren’t worth the sand and aluminum that they’re made of after the new model comes out.

          I knew an old engineer who had a Rolex. He also had a pretty decent knockoff that he wore daily. Only reason I knew it was a fake was because he told me “I keep the real one in the safe at home.” The daily driver probably meant more to him than the real one.

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