As with everything in life, change can be a good thing for our betterment. In some cases however, change can lead to one problem after another which leaves you questioning why you decided to change in the first place and how you undo what eventually becomes a frustrating mistake for many months to come. In this instance, what should have been a nice change of vehicle resulted in both frustration and anguish.
The New Car (take one)
Throughout my life I have both owned and driven a wide range of vehicles, starting in the early days with a Vauxhall Nova (that handled worse than a giraffe falling from orbit), through Ford, Renault, Jaguar, and BMW, finally settling on Audi for the last few years. A fan of the RS5 despite its lack of headroom, I finally settled on a SQ7 as my daily driver. While spacious and reliable, I'd always been griped by its size and the little things that I never liked (the colour of the interior/exterior for example). After deciding that a change would be good idea (wanting something more sporty and fun to drive) and some research later, I determined the E53 would be the car of choice to go for (given its six-cylinder engine and 4WD system). One part-exchange later and a low-mileage E53 was mine; let the fun begin!
Sadly, the fun wasn't mine to be had... Due to COVID and restrictions around test-drives, you couldn't test a vehicle until you had purchased it (top tip, never do this, ever). Upon driving the car home (from over 100 miles away) it became apparent that something wasn't right, and needed to be addressed sooner rather than later. Typically, cars tend to drive in straight lines when you hold the steering wheel in a fixed position (yes, camber steer is a thing, but its negligible most of the time). In this instance, keeping the car within a motorway lane was a difficult endeavour...
Taking the car to a Mercedes dealership revealed just how bad the wheel alignment was, and how problematic it would be to resolve. After the first attempt at alignment (taking a whole day with the vehicle test-driven by them multiple times) it was handed back to me only to find that the issue still presented itself. Confused, I went back to them asking for it to be done again given it clearly wasn't fixed, at which point another day was spent aligning the car to within an millimetre of its life. Even after this, keeping the car in a straight line was still an effort. When asked what their view was, Mercedes had nothing further to add and stated that the car was functioning correctly. It's easy to think that this point its a case of user sensitivity, but after driving many cars (including many sports cars on track days etc), something wasn't right. As they were happy to certify the car being correct/safe/roadworthy, I figured part-exchanging it for a new vehicle would be the best approach...
The New Car (take two)
One part-exchange and many pennies later, a new Mercedes GLE was mine to collect. Being my first brand new car (a milestone in itself), I will admit I was taken in by the moment, feeling that years of hard work had paid off and I finally had a vehicle where I would know its history and could make sure it was look after as each year passed. Unfortunately, being taken in by the moment isn't always a good thing. After driving the vehicle from the dealership to a car detailer (ceramic coating as always) it turned out there was a deep scratch on the drivers side that I had missed when inspecting the vehicle, in a place that could only have occurred prior to collection. While slightly saddened by this, I took the decision to leave it as-is, as nothing in life is perfect and at some point I would add my own scratches to it.
Believing that other than the scratch the car was perfect was my next mistake, as on the drive home the car displayed a warning indicating that there was a fault that required an immediate service and I had a mileage limit before the car wouldn't start. Back to the dealership the car went, to determine that one of the AdBlue pipes had a hole and was leaking internally. Sadly, I was told that only 3 pipes were in stock within the UK and it would need to be couriered to my local dealership. One courtesy car later and I was back on the road at least, and I got to drive an EQC which wasn't as bad as I expected. My car was repaired after a few days and I finally managed to get some driving in preparation for a holiday within the UK.
If you have ever watched one of the UK bad driver videos on YouTube you will be familiar with how the driving of some motorists leaves you questioning if bribery for a driving license is still happening. On the second day of the holiday a Ford Fiesta decided that driving in the middle of the road was the right approach to taking a corner, resulting in my vehicle hitting sharp rocks at the side of the road to avoid a head-on collision. End result, two blown out tyres with holes in their sidewalls. Thankfully nobody was injured, but the day was about to get worse...
As the new vehicle comes with breakdown cover included, a lengthy wait later and collection of the vehicle was organised to take it to Mercedes Carlisle for it to be repaired. In hindsight, having it taken to any other dealership in the UK would have been a smarter choice given the end result. A few hours of waiting in the rain later (as they wont organise onwards travel for you until your vehicle has been collected, even if you are in the middle of nowhere and its raining), I was back at the hotel and ready to collect the courtesy car. I had called the dealership to ask about getting the tyres ordered ready, to which I was told it would be sorted and they should (hopefully) arrive the next day. Aside from being lied to by the courtesy car drop-off driver (top tip: don't lie about how much fuel is in the vehicle, its easily checked), I was feeling fairly confident that the car would be sorted the next day and the rest of the holiday wouldn't be impacted.
The next day, with no call during the morning (despite them telling me previously they would) I decided to phone them and see why it was radio silence. As it turned out, despite having my registration plate for the vehicle they had ordered the wrong tyres and so couldn't proceed with the work. OK, a little frustrating, but being assured that they had now ordered the correct tyres which would arrive the following morning (and as I still had a courtesy car), no harm no foul. Tomorrow came, and once again there was a lack of phone call by the afternoon. Chasing again, I found that they had ordered the wrong tyres a second time (run-flats this time), and it would be another day before my car was ready.
With yet another morning with no call I figured it was time to take a trip to the dealership before heading further south, and get an explanation as to why phone calls to update their customers are seemingly too difficult to manage. What followed was both shocking and the first real demonstration as to what Mercedes considers 'service'. The person I had spoken to previously wasn't in and so someone else decided to speak on their behalf, informing me that while the tyres had arrived their tyre fitter (singular it appears) wasn't in today and so it would now be after the weekend before they could get the replacement tyres fitted. When questioning how this was considered acceptable, I was told that as the car would be repatriated to me I shouldn't "have a problem" with this and that they didn't understand "what my issue is". With nothing left to say, I headed further south to the next destination.
While hoping for a call to tell me that my car had somehow been fixed before the weekend I was surprised to receive a call from the hire car company informing me that they were at my previous hotel and were trying to find the car to collect it. A short conversation later and I found that Mercedes Carlisle hadn't informed them that the work on the car was still ongoing thus they were trying to collect the hire-car from me. After explaining that I still didn't have my car I was allowed to keep the hire-car for longer, though no view on when they would try to collect was given.
The weekend had passed at this point and I had made it back home, still not in my own car and still with no view as to when my car would be repaired/delivered back to me. Amusingly, my next phone call was from the hire-car company again, this time informing me that they had been informed that my car had now been repaired and it was time for them to collect my loan vehicle. Taking it on faith that my car would be on its way soon I provided them the collection details and waited to see what would follow next. Subsequently I received a call from Mercedes Carlisle informing me that the work on my vehicle had been completed and it was now heading back to me, with payment now being required for the work (costing £1139.33 for two tyres). Sadly, my hopes of a speedy delivery of my vehicle were very much incorrect.
As it turned out, my vehicle wouldn't be delivered directly to me, and instead would go via multiple haulage companies instead. I understand the desire not to have the actual vehicle driven down (as it increases the mileage and risks more damage), however I had hoped it would at least come down in one go on the back of a vehicle. Tracking of the vehicle using the built-in tracker had also become problematic as they had left the car unlocked which had flattened the battery to a critical level. Thankfully the secondary tracker fitted in the vehicle worked just fine, and with an updated polling interval allowed me to see exactly where it was and contact the haulage companies to get a view on when it would arrive. An email to Mercedes Carlisle (in response to the invoice they finally sent through), asking who had approved this method of transport as we were nearing two weeks for two new tyres, went unanswered (as did my request for the details of their dealership manager).
After nearly two weeks my vehicle was returned to me, in part because the final haulage company took pity on me for how long I had been without my vehicle and the stress so far, doing everything they could to find a driver and a suitable truck to bring it down. Disappointingly, the vehicle hadn't had the exterior cleaned (too much to ask for), and even the two wheels that had the tyres changed still had the transfer/residue from the accident. The job had been rushed without a doubt, and as it turned out, hadn't been done properly...
Upon driving the vehicle it became clear that the wheels hadn't been balanced after the tyres had been replaced, as driving above 50MPH resulted in a shaking steering wheel. Back to my local Mercedes dealership for yet more work (and more money) had the issue fixed, with them confirming that neither of the wheels had been balanced when the tyres were changed. Had I had continued driving with the steering shakes it would have resulted in damage to the power steering (and a significantly higher cost to repair).
As with most companies there is an official complaint procedure that can be followed, and this became my next step along the journey of frustration. The details of everything that had occurred were submitted, and a response finally received via email indicating that it was being investigated further. Sadly (though not unexpectedly), time continued to pass by without any form of response. One phone call (that I made) indicated that it was still under investigation, however no details were provided. Their default was to again state it would be responded to via call, despite my asking for it to be via email so that I had it on record (something which many companies seem to avoid as of late).
What stands out at this point is that no investigation into this sequence of events could/should take this long, and that this is inevitably a stall tactic being used in the hope that my complaint is quietly forgotten about and can be subsequently ignored. The irony of their website asking you to detail what you want to resolve the issue, when inevitably (and as I stated as part of my complaint), it is up to Mercedes to determine how they want to make a situation right, not for the customer to dictate what must be done.
At time of writing (nearly after 1 month of raising an official complaint with their head office), things still haven't progressed. A week after receiving an email stating someone was investigating I had heard nothing, and chasing them didn't get a response either. A call to their complaints line indicated that they had spoken to Mercedes Carlisle and that things were still progressing, however there was no details regarding what "progress" actually means.
TL;DR: Don't buy a Mercedes (especially from the Carlisle dealership), as the price premium does not get you better support and they fail in comparison to other manufacturers.
It appears that leaving a 1-star review on Google is a good way to get the attention of a dealership, though sadly even the voicemail they left (as they called while I was on camera) wasn't followed through as they didn't call back later during the day as they said they would. As it stands, they also didn't call back the day after either. Given how the dealership didn't call back (or respond to emails) during the repair period at least their behaviour is consistent (albeit awful).
My case how been closed by Mercedes, with what can only be considered a disgusting resolution on their part. They stated that Mercedes Carlisle did balance the wheels after changing the tyres, despite the violent shake in the steering and my local Mercedes dealership going on record to state that it clearly hadn't been done. They also offered as a means of apology for me to drive my car 586 miles (there and back) to Carlisle to have the wheels balanced, despite it already being performed locally (which they know) and it costing more in fuel than the wheel balance itself (not to mention the damage it would have done driving the car with steering that bad).It goes to show that Mercedes really are a company that relies on brand loyalty from its older client-base rather than providing the personalised service and aftercare they claim. When I think back to the weeks prior to purchasing this vehicle, the multiple comments from Mercedes owners stating that it's a bad idea, and how even on collecting the vehicle the day it was ready I found a deep scratch that they had conveniently ignored, I can only hope anyone who reads this article really does avoid them and the headaches they bring.
Vote with your wallets (as I am about to do), and buy from other manufacturers that actually provide the service they claim to