Terry Nicholson hadn’t planned on buying another identical Mercedes C-Class. He’d been stung by engine problems with his previous car (a C250 diesel) and, erring on the side of caution, had decided to get a larger-engined C350.
However, Terry’s dealer assured him that the 2.1-litre diesel engine’s problems were behind it, so why not buy the car he really wanted? Terry was persuaded, and to his relief all was fine – for the next 12 months.
Then came the car’s first service, and signs that things were far from well. Terry was told that all the injectors, the management unit and associated wiring needed to be replaced. Thankfully, this was all done under warranty.
Four months later, however, and Terry’s faith in his C-Class was shaken. As he was returning from a break in the Lake District, the engine cut out with no warning on the busy A66. ‘Thank goodness I wasn’t overtaking,’ Terry said. ‘That could have been game over.’
An inspection revealed that a turbo feeder pipe had disconnected. It was all too much for Terry, whose previous C-Class had suffered sudden engine failure when pulling out of a busy T-junction.
He called Mercedes, but the response wasn’t sympathetic. Then, less than two weeks later, a letter dropped onto his doormat. It contained an urgent safety recall relating to potential cracks in the charge air hose, which ‘may cause the engine to cut out’.
Terry stepped up his pleas for his dealer and Mercedes to do something and was offered a £200 service discount. ‘I have never felt so insulted,’ said Terry, who pointed out that £200 wouldn’t cover half of the cost of his car’s next service.
‘I love the car, but I can’t drive it without expecting it to break down again,’ he told Helpdesk. ‘The dangerous positions both cars have left me in is unacceptable.’
Helpdesk agreed and asked Mercedes what it could do; Terry has bought three new Mercs in the past four years. The brand was in danger of losing his custom for good.
Mercedes responded quickly. ‘We understand Mr Nicholson’s frustration. The service has not been good enough,’ said a spokesman. ‘We take pride in our customer care and agree the goodwill offered falls below what he can justifiably expect.’
A new offer was made, which Terry accepted: a full free service worth around £500 and, since his finance deal ends in 2014, £750 off the price of his next Mercedes.
‘I’m not completely sold on a new Merc just yet,’ he said, ‘but to be fair the company has tried to keep my business, and I do like its cars – when they’re working as they should. A new C-Class is out next year, so I might be persuaded if this engine is replaced.’
What if this happens to you?
- Keep a record of everything that goes wrong with your car, including dates, times, diagnoses, phone calls and written correspondence.
- If your car is under warranty, be sure to go back to a main dealer. Only they can conduct warranty repairs.
- If your car suffers ongoing problems, even though they may have been repaired free, contact the manufacturer. You could be entitled to a replacement car.
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