Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Reliability: What's Up Or Down With Mercedes?


The latest consumer reports auto reliability survey is out, and the news is not good for Mercedes. The German made premium brand ranked dead last among 36 automakers. That was not a typo. Mercedes finished at the bottom of the latest survey on reliability.

Consumer Reports compiled the results after surveying more than a million car owners and asking them to rate their cars/trucks and suv's. Overall, the people surveyed think their vehicles are more reliable. That's not a surprise, all the automakers are doing a better job of improving their quality. The results for the big 3 were mixed with some brands improving (Lincoln and GMC both jumped more than 10 spots) while others stumbled (Chrysler and Jeep). And, has been the case in recent years, Asian automakers top the survey with Toyota being #1.

But, to me, the fall of Mercedes is the most interesting story. This brand has been coming back over the last two years (sales up 10.6% last year) thanks to the redesigned S class and the new GL. But at the same time there have been regular questions about the quality of Mercedes. In past Consumer Reports surveys the brand was in the lower half of ratings.

Even new CEO Dieter Zetsche admitted when he became the brand's CEO that Mercedes has to do a better job. But according to David Champion at Consumer Reports, the German automaker continues to struggle with electrical and electronic problems. In other words, the Benz may be "overloaded" with too many gadgets. gadgets that don't work over time. Champion wonders if Mercedes sales will suffer over time. Champion told me, "I think the cars in general are beautiful. They perform very well, lots of room, great fit and finish. That will sell cars for a while but it is the repeat customer, if you've had a Mercedes and you have had nothing but trouble with it and it is in the 5th 6th year and now are looking for a new are probably going to think you will never own one of these again."

Will buyers care about the reliability ratings? We'll see. Right now Mercedes is on a roll, even with more questions about quality.

Questions?  Comments?