Mercedes-Benz’s Quantity over Quality Methodology

Mercedes just announced to the media types (like your’s truly) that it will unveil three new vehicles to the US public at the Los Angeles Automobile Show December 1-10th.  LA has become a favorite venue among world-conscious manufacturers to release new products…of course Ford and GM still do it in Detroit where they believe the center of the universe remains located.

The three new vehicles Mercedes is pushing are the S63 AMG, CL63 AMG and Maybach 62.  The AMG models share an all new 6.3 liter V8 with variable intake runners, four valves per cylinder (how pedestrian!) and “bucket followers,” which replace traditional rocker arms.  Producing 518 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, the engines share no parts with other Mercedes V8s.  They also will be made entirely by AMG, which is to say they are also made by Mercedes, since AMG is owned by Mercedes.

If that’s not enough power for you, Mr. Deep Pockets, the new Maybach 62 S is also set to be shown.  This uber-mobile gets an upgraded twin-turbo, intercooled V12 of six-liters displacement.  Power output is a mere 604 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque.  Of course, the 62 S is the size of a house, so it can use all the power it can get.

Mercedes must be going after a new strategy: quantity over quality.  They now have among the most powerful model lineup in the world for a mass-production manufacturer.  They also have a never-ending lineup of small, midsize and large cars, as well as SUVs and the R-Class minivanish thing.  They also go for maximum technology, with computer-aided everything packed into each vehicle.

But making so many vehicles with such a focus on power and technology has come at a cost of quality.  Look no further than the recently released Consumer Reports list of Most Reliable Cars.  Mercedes S-Class, E-Class, and CLS ranked as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th worst for reliability in the Luxury class.  SL, CLK and SLK V6 also were, 2nd, 3rd and 4th least reliable in their Sport/Sporty class.  Not to be outdone, the M-Class took honors as the least reliable Midsized SUV.  No Mercedes model scored anywhere close to hitting the most reliable list.  The only other manufacturer to come as close to a reliability shellacking (as a percentage of total models offered) as M-B were Volkswagen (Jetta, Passat and Touareg,) and Caddy (STS, Escalade EXT and SRX.)  I’m not sure if Mercedes is up on current events, but if they’re happy sharing company with VW and Caddy (which are to reliability as the Chicago Cubs are to the World Series,) they have a big problem on their hands.

Maybe I’m just getting nostalgic for the days when Mercedes made cars that rarely broke…and even when they did, they kept running broken forever.  I suppose I also remember a time when expensive cars were built better than the cheap ones. Now it’s the other way around, because companies like M-B and BMW are too busy trying to create the technology standard rather than make the cars actually run for 10,000 miles in between the automotive equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death.

So my plea to Mercedes-Benz: Stop the quantity over quality crap.  Power wars are best when focused on your sports cars, of which you really only have one: the SLR. 500 and 600 horsepower is more than enough for the ten mile drive to the Country Club.  What we’d really like is to make sure that the car doesn’t need to visit the dealer for service on the way back.

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