Mercedes has got another three years to improve quality, repair its tarnished image and take the top spot in JD Power customer satisfaction surveys away from Lexus.
New overall DaimlerChrysler boss Dieter Zetsche admits earlier targets to topple the dominating Japanese company from the number one position in JD polls by 2006 won't be met, and instead set a 2009 deadline.
'I wouldn't bet my life on it being 2006,' Zetsche told whatcar.com at the Detroit Motor Show, but added: 'We are on course to reach where our customers expect us to be, which is at the top.'
In the last JD Power survey Mercedes ranked a dismal 21st, while in the past three years it has tumbled from fourth to 10th in the What Car? Reliability Index.
Zetsche claims new control measures will start to push the company up the rankings soon, saying the current, costly problem facing Mercedes is dealing with the legacy of cars built before the drive to raise quality was started.
Echoing maxims used by Toyota, the sister company of Lexus that also dominates JD Power polls, Zetsche said: 'This is costly, but you also cannot get to the top unless you engineer and build-in quality in the first place.'
Zetsche is keen to point out that there is often little separation between top players in satisfaction polls and, because they are based on the interpretation of statistics, that there are also grey areas.
Still, he concedes that while the Mercedes brand has 100 years of valuable history to draw on in the bid to win buyers, 'There have been a number of years were we have been withdrawing from this account rather than paying in.'
Three years ago outgoing UK DaimlerChrysler boss Joachim Eberhardt said Mercedes' goal was to wrest the number one spot from Lexus in JD Power customer satisfaction surveys by 2006.
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