Author Topic: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big  (Read 5883 times)

michaeld

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I read an interesting article in my newspaper, titled "Toyota recalls go up sharply as vehicle sales rise" by Jim Mateja out of the Chicago Tribune.

It began, "The Toyota name has long been synonymous with quality, durability, and dependability.  But in recent months, it's become synonymous with recalls as well.  Perhaps in its bid to overtake GM as the largest automaker on the planet, Toyota is guilty of the same sin GM, Ford and Chrysler committed in past decades - putting quantity ahead of quality.

Some details: last year, Toyota recalls more than doubled as the industry's declined slightly.  And there is no let up this year, w/ models like the Tundra, Sienna, Highlander, Echo, Yaris, Prius having large numbers of recalls for various issues.  And the Camry - long supposed the flagship of "how to build a great car" - dropped from the highest reliability to only average in the Consumer Reports mag rating.  The senior director of its auto test facility said, it may be an example of "the more vehicles you produce, the more likelihood you are going to miss something."

Well, as one who has lamented the US automaker's plunge into mediocrity as well as the Japanese automaker's rise to invincibility, I HAVE to cheer over the above.  But that led me to wonder...

Assuming that the statement, "the more vehicles you produce, the more likelihood you are going to miss something" is true, how does this inform us on our w116s?  As I understand it, the 450SE/SELs were the first truly internationally successful Benzes in terms of sales.  At the same time, the company has continued to become more and more successful in terms of units sold ever since - and there seems to be no question that late model Benzes have increasingly lost ground in the "quality, durability, and dependability" department that the Toyota story opened with.

On a similar vein, I have looked at the engines of several late model Japanese cars, and .... :o ??? >:( ... (shudder)... horror.  Pure horror.  You think of doing ANY DIY work on one at all, and they appear more evil than Linda Blair did in "The Exorcist."  It appears like you'd have to dissasemble half the darn front end just to GET to most of the engine components.  All the new cars are like that now, to varying degrees, compared to what they used to be.  But new GM cars appear to be a mechanic's dream compared to the Japanese cars in terms of engine accessability.  How would you rate our w116s in "user friendliness" (we might agree to exclude the 6.9s here just because there is just so much darned motor crammed in there!  Or not, if the 6.9rs want to comment).  How would you rate the ease of working on your w116 compared to other cars - both older and newer - that you have owned?

New car prices are really coming down, particularly with all the "employee discount" packages.  What would you say would be the chief reasons for hanging on to your old w116 rather than trading it in on a new model?  (Big Richard's last post on the thread that bears his name prompts me to ask this last question).
Mike

Denis

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #1 on: 01 September 2006, 03:44 AM »
hi michaeld and all

It's actually much worse than what michaeld describes. Even if the new cars have/had some accessible components, the DIY maintenance is now virtually impossible.
In another thread, I was trying to help oscar with his injector 4 and 8 problem, my last post suggested using an oscilloscope to "see" the pulse train. That is as bad as it gets with a W116. A cheap multimetre with a frequency counter range would also do. But that is not even a starter on the "new" cars.

To simplify, the "new" car creed is something like this: if a mechanical function can be turned over to "silicon", do it ! the physical part is cheaper to manufacture and you can tell your clients that it is modern "digital" stuff when they complain about the (inflated) price. People are suckers for anything "digital"...

So how do you do DIY work on the "silicon" ? either you don't or you become a mechanic  :P

Here is a case in point : a few years ago, I was working on a training program for Renault. A collaborator named Richard who lived in Nottingham, UK was helping out with documentation.

To "fix" a Renault, like most "new" cars, you plug a laptop computer somewhere and run the diagnostic tools, etc. For a Renault, there is a special laptop named Clip, specialised laptops are the norm so any old one will not do  :(, and a software pack allows one to see everything including all the data transiting over the multiplexed network and the several custom micro-controllers and up to the "central cabin computer". Wow, a new Renault has a "central cabin computer" all digital and all  :P

So Richard had a Ford Mondeo and I asked him how he got data from a Renault. He said "Well, my neighbour in Nottingham has a Mégane and she lets me plug into it ever since I showed her that I had "fixed" 14 problems...I explained to her that there were mistakes in the data for fuel injection and the climate control and that I had corrected them by entering the right data and updating the software in the FI "computer" with the lastest service CD" and she said : "Oh...but... I didn't have any problem..." and Richard replied "...you were ABOUT to have one with the fuel injection, the data errors that would have increased your fuel consumption quite a bit."

The lady was sold ! Go ahead mister Richard, "fix" my car as much as you like  ::)

Some of the problems came from electrical glitches or buggy programs. Yes, "new" cars have BUGS, isn't technology wonderful  ::)

Personally, I will simply NOT put up with cars that behave like poorly configured Windows PCs. This makes my choice of "new" cars stop at the early W126 cars.

Aside from the dashboard and pneumatics, I consider my W116 to be a joy to maintain and with the M116 engine, the easyest to access in the engine area. Even the steering box adjustment is accessible between the third and fourth branch of the left exhaust manifold.

As to the very easiest car for DIY, I firmly believe that a W123 240D is utter happiness on wheels with a star to enjoy.

Bugs belong in computers not in the cruise control or ABS  !!!


Denis

Paris, France

BC

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #2 on: 01 September 2006, 03:31 PM »
Well said Denis.
What will all this mean for the classic car owner of the future? That is, assuming we have the fuel to run them. Will we be able to de-bug current cars in 40 years time or will they be consigned to the PC rubbish dump because we don't have the chips etc to fix them? I recall NASA doing a worldwide search recently for old chips for its space programme.......
However, the 116 is not without bugs. My 450SE has a poltergeist that lives in the Tempomat and defies all attempts to fix it. It will cruise nicely at 100kph and just when I am relaxed it will blast into full acceleration and power down the highway. That's OK but despite swapping components I have not been able to isolate the issue. Neither can my mechanic who worked at MB when the 116s were being built and who knows them intimately. We simply scratch our heads and wonder. I use the Tempomat only when I need some entertainment and the road ahead is clear....
Can you imagine what a malfunctioning Distronic might do?
Regards,
Brian
1979 450SE. Silvergreen/Ivory leather. For sale.
2001 ML320. Titanite Red/Java leather.
2007 CLK350. Cubanite/Pebble Beige Leather.
1993 Silver Spirit II. Dark Oyster/Parchment Leather.

michaeld

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #3 on: 01 September 2006, 09:55 PM »
On a similar vein, I have looked at the engines of several late model Japanese cars, and .... :o ??? >:( ... (shudder)... horror.  Pure horror.  You think of doing ANY DIY work on one at all, and they appear more evil than Linda Blair did in "The Exorcist."

It's actually much worse than what michaeld describes. Even if the new cars have/had some accessible components, the DIY maintenance is now virtually impossible.

Just in case anyone ever comes to the conclusion that Denis does not seriously hate the prospect of DIY on late model cars!

I have always bought cars "for the long haul;" i.e., when I buy a car, I plan to drive that sucker until it don't drive no more (well, actually, until it is smarter to buy another car than to fix the problem on the one I got).  The idea of spending the equivalent of half a car's new purchase price for a three year lease was NOT devised with me in mind, I can assure you.

I have wondered what impact leasing has had on car quality, durability, and reliability - it has had to have SOME impact, given that so many cars are leased today.  Exactly what impact is an excellent matter for discussion; but my opinion is that cars were once built for long-term owners, and today are built for short-term owners - and that aint good for folk who are seeking long-term quality.

I concur w/ Denis' analysis of the evils of silicone, and loved his quip about refusing to put up with cars that behaved like poorly configured Windows PCs.  You aint a Mac guy by chance, are you, Denis?  I believe that ONE of the major reasons that Mercedes-Benzes are losing their reputation for "quality, durability, and dependability" is precisely that they became too "high-tech" for their own good.  Too many whiz bang gadegets and computer controlls that wowed the initial purchaser - well, leaser - but were not able to last for the long haul.  Let me tell you something: if I were about to plunk down a hundred grand on an automobile (which I'm not!), I would be pretty P.O.d if the thing didn't work at least as well as Apollo's sun chariot.

And they don't locate the computers and chip sets in easily accessible places, do they - no, they hide them in an engine the way misers hide their money in a house.  When one fails, you are either tearing your motor apart or tearing your dash apart, whichever is more heinous.

I had great success with early 90's GM cars (Lincoln and Cadillac) - apart from being targeted by car thieves - but I'm going to have to see the 2000+ models go the distance before I trust the new cars.  As for Brian's insight: I agree.  The days of the "Classic car" are over.  Today's cars will cost too much to keep running in relation to what they will be worth as all the whiz-bang gadgets begin to fail (i.e., "What do you mean, it's gonna cost $8000 to repair my rear-view video system?  The hell with it!").

Now, I also asked about w116s in regard to falling prey to the corporate mindset and lowered standards of quality.  No one touched that, so allow me to venture this far: when an auto manufacturer begins to seek profitability over anything else, it might well be time to consider buying cars from another auto manufacturer.  There seems to be a significant difference between becoming rich doing what you love, versus loving becoming rich.  And as a car company becomes public and grows, more and more of the latter people move in, and more and more of the former people move out, until you end up with cars that are designed to make money versus cars that are designed to fulfill a vision of excellence.  I believe another interesting discussion is, "when did this happen to Mercedes-Benz (assuming it ever did)?"  and "when did it happen to other car makers (i.e. before MBz, after, at the same time)?"

Another question I'll ask again is, "Why WOULDN'T you decide to buy a new car - given the remarkably good prices today - and trade in your w116?" (Best of both worlds-types can respond to the question, "why do you continue to let your w116 hang around when you've got a new car?").

Denis

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #4 on: 01 September 2006, 11:07 PM »
Hi Brian crump and all

Isn't the tempomat on W116 an american Ford device ?  ;D

Denis

Paris, France

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #5 on: 02 September 2006, 12:06 AM »
Sacre bleu Denis!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If it is I will have to seel my Benz immediatement!!!! No, you can't be correct. Surely. It has an instruction booklet in German and is stamped all over with MB's insignia. If you are right then it is Moet on me when I am next in Paris. If you are wrong you have to visit us in Oz and fix it. Deal?
Brian
1979 450SE. Silvergreen/Ivory leather. For sale.
2001 ML320. Titanite Red/Java leather.
2007 CLK350. Cubanite/Pebble Beige Leather.
1993 Silver Spirit II. Dark Oyster/Parchment Leather.

macatron

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #6 on: 02 September 2006, 12:37 AM »
It's funny that the Japanese cars would be targeted as being so miserable to work on.  Perhaps it's true but from my vantage point in South Orange County California, USA, you'd never guess it.  The popularity of the street race cars and the drift cars and the "tuner cars" is still a solid presence although the hype that surrounded that niche of car culture has declined over the last 5 years.

Consumer-market electronic gadgetry has benefitted from so many leaps in technology that it is no longer a question of "how long will it last?" but rather "what is the latest and greatest ... to set my ... apart from everyone elses?".  Generally speaking, I think that when technological advances are spaced futher apart, stylistic advances are more highly prized.  When technology becomes the focus, the emphasis is less on style and more on function.  In this case, when function is constantly "improving", demand for longevity drops radically.  This is what we've witnessed in the last 20 years and most markedly in the last 10.

The days of automotive preservation and restoration are disappearing.  People seem to want recyclability.  For many, if not most, the car is just a means of transport.  And for me, that's fine.  I understand that hand-me-downs are far less valuable when "new" is widely available and cheap.

But, just because that's the way the world seems to work doesn't mean that it's right.  History should be maintained only by those that appreciate it and those that will handle it with care.  I want to maintain my 1977 280SE as it was intended.  I don't have plans to modernize it, customize it, or in any other way make apologies for what it is.  It is a remarkable automobile in its own right.  It is a testament to a time when the cost of chromed metal bumpers was accepted for the style they offered as opposed to the inexpensive disposable plastic ones of today.  I'm proud to own it.

michaeld

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #7 on: 06 September 2006, 08:36 PM »
The days of automotive preservation and restoration are disappearing.  People seem to want recyclability.  For many, if not most, the car is just a means of transport.  And for me, that's fine.  I understand that hand-me-downs are far less valuable when "new" is widely available and cheap.

The only part of macatron's post with which I would take issue is the statement, "For many, if not most, the car is just a means of transport."  Macatron is from my old stomping grounds, as opposed to somewhere I'm completely unfamiliar with; I won't say this about everyplace on earth, but the United States has got to be THE most image-obsessed "pop" culture in the world.

I'm not picking on you, maccy; I have always looked at cars primarily as transportation.  But I have probably also appeared to an awful lot of people as a "most uncool stylless dud."  It's not about who you are; nobody cares who you are.  It's all about how you look.  It's all about what sub-group or sub-culture you are trying to identify with. 

I think that's why leasing has exploded to such a tremendous degree, frankly.  People who can't afford to buy that car that says, "Look at ME!!!" can somehow manage to come up with the short-term arm-and-a-leg to lease one.  For these idiots, its similar to spending five times as much to rent furniture because they don't think they can afford to pay for it all-at-once.  Or - for many others - the thought of being trapped in a long -term commitment to a car that is no longer on the cutting-edge of fashion is simply unthinkable regardless of the costs. 

Now macatron's other statement, "People seem to want recyclability" makes a lot of sense to me - particularly given my explanation of a style- and image-obsessed culture.  Cars have been deemed obsolute after a ridiculously short period of time; not because they can't be built to last, but because image-obsessed pop-culture doesn't WANT them anymore.  And over time, car makers have possibly (I think likely) dumbed down their quality level to the lowest-common denominator.  That may not account for the whole truth, but I very much believe it's part of the truth.

Macatron said, "The days of automotive preservation and restoration are disappearing."  I think that's (again) because new and hi-tech are largely associated with "cool" and "in" and old and classic are considered "anachronistic" and "out."  I think new and old cars have one thing in common with new and old movies; old movies might be outstanding; but they had their moment in the sun, and they are not the rave (like the new releases) any longer.

As for the words, "People seem to want recyclability", I'd say, "That's exactly what a vain, image-is-everything, throw-away culture would want."  If a culture has nothing to offer that means a damn thing, then it really makes sense that they'd want a new thing all the time.

Now me, I like to watch movies at the $1 theater that come out a few months later (though it seems like a shorter and shorter time).  I don't want to waste my time talking around the coffee pot about a movie; I'd rather talk to people about things that actually matter.  I'm not going to pay $8 to see a movie just because that's the "cool" time to see it!  Nor do I care one whit if the car I'm driving isn't still being raved about in the TV ads or the magazines.  I don't mind being thought "uncool" by people who demand the latest fashion; if someone is going to be that vain and shallow, I would just assume they waste someone else's time with their pointless, tivial existences anyway.

Now, in that light, Macatron's first two paragraphs are deeply insightful, and really ought to be read several times and reflected upon (see, Maccy?  I told you I wasn't picking on you!). 

Now, if you're the kind of person who has ever done some DIY work on a late model car and said, "Man, they built this plastic P.O.S. like crap!" or "Geez, I could have designed something better than this, and I'm an idiot!" you might be well on your way to gravitating toward an older car.  In spite of all the technological disadvantages, older cars had the "charm" of having been built to last, and that is precisely what I want out of a car.

I now cease my ranting and proceed to carefully step down from my soapbox.
Mike

macatron

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #8 on: 07 September 2006, 06:57 PM »
Haha, Michaeld, I knew you weren't picking on me.

Actually, you make several good points and I'm happy you'd reference my post.  There's no better compliment when someone (esp. one with intelligent opinions such as yourself) considers one's point as valid, though they may not be in total agreement.

I thought I'd share just a funny/ironic aside that is related.  I work as a buyer for a company that manufactures portable printers and paper/film media.  I've taken some classes in the field of supply chain management recently and the "Toyota Supply Chain Model" is all the rage right now.  In other words, in terms of economic efficiency, Toyota knows how to make cars.  It seems to be believed that many other automakers such as GM would do themselves a big favor by emulating Toyota.

From a purely economic standpoint, I would agree that indeed, many automakers (as well as manufacturers in other industries) could learn something valuable from Toyota.  However, from an automotive purist's point of view, I shudder to think that cookie-cutter, plastic-looking cars are the new direction.  After all, I do believe it IS possible to have a low-volume, high efficiency business that generates profits.  Of course, the profits are smaller...and so the process to corporations of massive size begins.

To tell the truth, as much as I lament what I consider the inevitable transition away from gasoline, I do welcome the fact that smaller, more nimble companies will offer solutions in automobiles, which means that a great chance for fresh ideas to emerge.  I'm very hopeful for a new golden age of automobiles - one with class and sophistication.  Most importantly, I'm hopeful that if new makes emerge, they'll have to prove themselves and they may just do that through durability.  I guess we'll see.  It's a dream, I know.

michaeld

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #9 on: 07 September 2006, 08:44 PM »
I've taken some classes in the field of supply chain management recently and the "Toyota Supply Chain Model" is all the rage right now.  In other words, in terms of economic efficiency, Toyota knows how to make cars.  It seems to be believed that many other automakers such as GM would do themselves a big favor by emulating Toyota.

From a purely economic standpoint, I would agree that indeed, many automakers (as well as manufacturers in other industries) could learn something valuable from Toyota.  However, from an automotive purist's point of view, I shudder to think that cookie-cutter, plastic-looking cars are the new direction.  After all, I do believe it IS possible to have a low-volume, high efficiency business that generates profits.  Of course, the profits are smaller...and so the process to corporations of massive size begins.

Macatron,

I may tease, but I will never pick  ;)

Well, another excellent post, this.  I dare say the only thing I hope is mistaken is the notion that GM emulate Toyota.  As an American that hopes that America can once again dominate the auto industry - with foreign automakers feeding significant market niches - I hope that GM doesn't want to be as good as Toyota, but BETTER THAN Toyota.  But until GM and Ford learn how to be better than Toyota, it would be nice to be at least as good.

In some ways your post might parallel the Japanese myth of superiority in business in the 80's.  American business models and university courses emulated and imitated the Japanese model - with mixed successes - until the whole thing came crashing down and the Japanese economy struggled for a good solid decade because of endemic weaknesses in the very model that had once seemed so invincible.  Obviously, one should ALWAYS examine the competition and ask why what they are doing is successful; but I believe one should also ALWAYS be thinking beyond merely adapting the opponent's strategy for one's own use, but improving upon - and even reaching the next level over - what is working at any one time.  The problem with the American business model has always been fixation on short-term profitability with its resulting myopia.  At the same time, the Japanese have always had their successes because they have been capable of thinking long-term.  I think that was Mercedes-Benz's strength, as well.

I actually think that some Japanese cars are quite attractive and practical (at least until maintenance time!).  And if I were buying a new car - due to the consideration of resale value - I would seriously consider a Japanese model.  I CERTAINLY wouldn't consider a new Mercedes, which would cost me three times the money with no return seeming to come in the form of increased reliability or durability.

From my vantage point (which is actually quite low, by the way ;)), I don't see "cookie cutter, plastic looking cars" as the real problem (okay, maybe the "plastic" part is part of the problem).  Henry Ford's brilliance in his time was his insistence on a cookie-cutter approach.  Ford's cars were cheap, durable, and part-interchangeable.  I wouldn't mind seeing that sort of logic being applied today.

What I hate (and "plastic looking" gets at it) is the sheer mechanical, component, and engineering cheapness of a lot of new cars today.  Along with that is the fixation on short-lived whiz-bang gadgetry that cannot last and are prohibitively expensive to repair or replace.  And, of course, the whole "disposable" thing.

As an "automotive purist," when do you think was the Golden Age?  Would it have been the 1960's?  Or was there such an age?  I myself have alyways liked cars from darn near every decade, including the 70s.  If someone built a car that offered value and practicality by trading electronic gadgets for durable drive components, I would buy it.  Frankly, 1940s cars had all the luxuries and amenities that I need.  Today's cars will go a ton of miles, as long as you drive those miles within a short span of time.  I want a car that is built to drive down the road for the next thirty years.

I myself am not particularly devoted to gasoline (although I don't favor hybrid technology).  And I actually think diesels are great.  And fusion?  Oh, that would be neat.  I would love to see US energy policy begin thinking - not so much in terms of environment or conservation - but warfare-level politics.  We need to completely get away from Middle Eastern oil in order to nullify the hyper-influence of a region of the world that is simply completely nuts.  I would be thrilled to see us explore and drill in other domains until we are able to come up with the next truly practical fuel alternative.

I'd probably say more, but I've gone on for too long as it is.
Mike

macatron

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #10 on: 07 September 2006, 09:10 PM »
To answer your points:

I, too, hope GM could surpass Toyota.  It's interesting to know that the success the Japanese realized (at least in terms of automaking) beginning in the 70s and continuing into the 80s relied very heavily on the American business practices and philosophies developed by us into the 60s.  However, whereas it can be argued quite easily that the Americans became complacent, the Japanese continued to improve their systems and added new manufacturing models.  In this leap frog style, I would like to see the rest of the world's automakers build on Toyota's expertise and then continue to develop new strategies though not necessarily their style of vehicle.

When I use the term "cookie cutter", I use it to describe the state of things as I see them now where offerings from one manufacturer are barely distinguishable from those of another.  I like Chrysler's new 300 because it really stands out yet is still understated.  It isn't merely quirky like the Scion xB...it's tasteful, in my opinion.  I could go on with comparisons but this thread is already running long.  The point is, the golden age I would like to see is when standards have yet to be developed.  What will fuel cars of the future, what materials will we use to build them, how long will the government reward the early alternative fuel cars and drivers with financial incentives, etc.  I am actually very interested in Hydrogen fuel though I know such technology is more than a few years away from commercial application.

In any event, I suppose the desire for something special and unique was what drove me to buy my M-B.  Would I have bought it new?  I think so.  There's something about the car that stands out independent of the fact that now, it is just so different.


michaeld

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #11 on: 09 September 2006, 10:47 PM »
I like Chrysler's new 300 because it really stands out yet is still understated.  It isn't merely quirky like the Scion xB...it's tasteful, in my opinion.  I could go on with comparisons but this thread is already running long.

Macatron,
It's funny you should mention the Chrysler 300.  I wrote a post http://forum.w116.org/index.php/topic,325.0.html comparing the 116s to some late model offerings of other car companies, and specifically singled out the front end of the 300.  I also think Lexus "ripped off" the general angles of the 116s in their cars during the 1990s.  I like the 300 as well; it has an elegant, yet powerful look, which is how I perceive the 116 body.

I agree w/ your use of the term "cookie cutter" and your use of it re: today's cars.  When I was a kid, I could instantly tell you the make of just about any car on the road, and the model of many.  Nowadays?  They all look pretty much the same, don't they?  The "cookie cutter" approach that I would like to see is a return of practicality and interchangeability, reminiscent of Henry Ford.  I think that one could largely abandon what you see as wrong in your description of "cookie cutter" and still embrace what I see as right in my description of "cookie cutter."

The problem w/ the car industry of today is that pride and creative vision are largely absent, and profitability and marketing have taken their place.  I don't know this for sure, but I believe that the goal of overtaking the once-invincible American automakers and beating them at their own game has driven the Japanese to this point.  It looks like a lot of the things that gave the Japanese their competitive advantages are starting to dry up, and it remains to be seen how the Japanese will respond to their success now that they are (basically) top dog.  I have always felt that the Japanese were always best at taking what someone else had done and building it for less; but they have shown some real creative genius as well.

As to your last paragraph - just to make sure you understood my earlier post - I was commenting on buying a new Mercedes today, not in the past.  I view today's Benzes as incredibly comfortable and high-performing cars, but simply lacking the longevity I would demand in a $60,000+ automobile.
Mike

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #12 on: 22 September 2006, 02:49 PM »
Some excellent points of view here with which I must concur. To sum up my feelings on this matter just look at companies like Bentley and Aston Martin, they produce products which are more reliable and more easily used by a wider section of the population than ever before but somehow their appeal is diluted. They seem to be everywhere now and seeing one on the road is not the event it once was. Sadly they are becoming "brands" perceived by those wishing to be seen in the latest thing as highly desirable whilst holding less interest to the true "petrol in the veins" enthusiast.
 There is no denying the sheer prowess of these vehicles when it comes to covering ground rapidly but as they become more commonplace there is a tendency to look to the past to find true inspiration. Look at events like Goodwood here in the UK. When I first attended in the mid nineties it was a relatively small affair, it is now ticket holders only and no accommodation within 20 miles unless book 2 years ahead! To me this is a signal that the popularity of classic cars is increasing exponentially due to many of the reasons stated by myself and others on this forum.
 All in all a very interesting topic, just hope it doesn't indicate the fact that I'm getting old!

BAR

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #13 on: 23 September 2006, 12:35 AM »
Hi there Andy - just to chine in on this dialogue:  you say 'Bentley and Aston Martin, they produce products which are more reliable and more easily used by a wider section of the population than ever before but somehow their appeal is diluted'.  May I suggest that this is a classic example of an oxymoron.

It is a prime example of manufacturers realising exactly what people with hundreds of thousands of whatever currency it is and the desire to acquire a piece of motoring excellence to use, would like to purchase.

That is to say, if it is powerful, beautiful and reliable, one would like to buy it.

And on the subject of beautiful: I dare say that the current S class is much less beautiful than its predecessor.  We should all watch to see how quickly a style repalcement comes forward.

Andy450UK

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Re: Mercedes-Benz vs. the auto Goliaths: when big becomes too big
« Reply #14 on: 23 September 2006, 04:12 PM »
OK I could have put the first sentence a little better but my point is that as production volumes increase and relative prices decrease the resulting product is less special. Manufacturers such as Toyota tried to move up market by creating the Lexus brand for it's top level products, a move seen as slightly cynical by many in the industry.
  To my mind Ford and VW have been much more astute in their ambitions to lure the wealthy customer by purchasing internationally renowned makers of the highly specialised cars mentioned in the previous post. The problem is that the large corporations want to see a big return on their investment and that means economies of scale and larger volumes to boost the bottom line. The net result of this is less mechanical diversity, sharing of major platform/sub assemblies with more mainstream offerings and a doubling or trebling of production numbers all of which dilute the identity of the "brand" in my humble opinion.
 I agree that some of the new breed of super cars really move the game on technically and dynamically, I have spent serious time behind the wheel of the new Bentleys in particular and have the utmost respect for the way they drive but somehow they just leave me cold. Perhaps as I said before it's just me getting old and looking back to a time when a new Aston/Bentley/Maserati/etc caused the entire street to stop and stare in awe as it drove past.