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Measuring Mercedes' Quality

Posted by: Gail Edmondson on November 3, 2006

So far so good. Since the Sept. 2005 launch of the S-Class, Mercedes has brought several new models to market with no bad news about quality or recalls. The company has been toiling to improve quality since 2003, when it plummeted to an ignoble position in the J.D. Power reliability survey, near the bottom of the industry ranking. Since then, the company has vastly increased testing of all kinds during development and production. As a result, electronic defects caught before the cars leave the factory are down 72% since 2002.
But what about after Mercedes’ cars hit the showroom? So far, it’s harder to gauge, at least by looking at J.D. Power’s two influntial measures of automotive quality. The initial quality survey for the US is not yet showing a rebound because J.D. Power changed its survey this year to include questions about “complexity,” making the 2006 ranking incompatible with previous years. In the May ranking, Mercedes again came in below industry average with 139 problems per 100 vehicles. But if you strip out the problems of “complexity,” which are the driver’s subjective opinion (for example about how hard is it to use the navigation system), Mercedes’ quality has risen to about the industry average which is 124 problems per 100 vehicles, says David Sargeant, head of J.D. Power’s London office. That’s clear progress.
The reliability survey, which measures the number of defects in cars that are three years old, still reflects the problems that plagued 2003 vintage cars. This year the reliability survey ranked Mercedes below industry average with 240 problems per 100 vehicles. To counter the legacy problems, management is now spear-heading a drive to make sure service teams “fix it right the first time.”
In Germany, quality rankings based on roadside breakdowns already highlight improved quality at Mercedes. In the US The 2007 US rankings will be the ones to watch for plotting Mercedes climb back up the quality ladder.

Reader Comments

Mad in Malibu

December 2, 2006 5:12 PM

I own a 2001 Mercedes CL500 plagued with problems with the Audio Cluster since the day I bought it. MBUSA was in total denial, and I finally wrote the then President, Paul Helata at his home! I received attention at that point, but the problems continued. My main instrument cluster lights failed and the telemetry froze. I was driving blind! MBUSA wouldn't honor a two year extended warranty, since I exceeded the limit by a few thousand miles. Then, months later, MBUSA issued a recall. Now, my tire pressure monitor has blown for the third time. I emailed the new President of MBUSA to no avail. MBUSA has deep problems with the reputation of its brand, the quality of its cars and its once world class reputation. They should be ASHAMED when it comes to supporting a $100 thousand car.


December 11, 2006 12:00 PM

you may consider reading and/or contacting the guys from

I had a couple of issues with my '05 SL and they were more than helpful! Plus, if you ever get in a conversation regarding your Benz or someone else's, it is a great way to stay on top of what is new and coming out.

Therese Alar

January 2, 2007 9:44 AM

I owned a brand new Mercedes A Class.
It was pure rubbish:
Problems in the first year included:
1. Interior panelling falling off ( twice . recurred after repairs by dealer )
2. faulty fuel gauge
3. faulty radio
4. faulty headlights
5. trim falling off

This is totally unacceptable.
I used to get better quality with the Hondas, Subarus and Toyotas I have owned.

I felt like a fool..Paid twice as much for the "prestige" of owning a faulty car.

I am now buying a Lexus.
I will never buy a Mercedes again

And I warn all my clients to avoid Mercedes like the plague.


January 20, 2007 11:24 PM

Own slk230, made numerous visits for warranty repair. It drive great, but waste of time in repairs.

Fred leber

January 31, 2007 4:58 PM

Have a 2000 E 320, the car has burnt out the original and two other instrunemnt clustersas of feb/06. MB is not willing to do anything. They claim that since I didn't service my car at the dealer they will not participate. I don't want participation, I want to repaired n/c. There is something wrong when a $70000 cars needs 3 clusters. These are about $1400 per piece. I can not believe their position on this. We have bought 4 benzes in the past but if they don't react, this will be the last one.

S Patel

February 15, 2007 10:36 PM

My 2001 CLK 320 is plagued with rust, fuel guage has a mind of its own, and the AC is toast! This will be the last one for me to.

Jack Reese

February 24, 2007 9:08 AM

My 75k clk500 convertible was bought NEW and the gas gauge didn't work! It took 3 days to fix it, returned with a torn steering wheel. That took 2 days to repair, then the RSR light came on with the warning of the airbag deployment at any moment! We've gone thru 2 sets of tires already (and only has 28k miles on it!). Mercedes should be ashamed of presenting products with quality AND SERVICE so poorly maintained. I own a BMW and will purchase their cars above and beyond those $$$$$"chryslers-benz".

A. Ramsy

March 19, 2007 11:27 AM

I really don't know whether the problem in Mercedes cars or in the owners themselves , I own 3 S-class's W140 , W220 and W221 , they're all great cars, I've faced some problems with the my W220 S500L in the Airmatic system but that was in very first models 99/2000 now but with 2003 I haven't faced any problems yet except the normal problems wich are expected to happen in every car in the market , it is a real shame to compare a mercedes with a Toyta or a honda , you cannot compare a car with a very basic technology like a toyota with a car that is full of technology such as a mercedes ,

if don't know how to deal with a mercedes or if the maintinance costs more than you can pay then stay away from mercedes and BMWs and stay with toyota and hondas


April 20, 2007 10:44 AM

I must say it's painful to read these stories of unreliable Benz cars. If Karl Benz were alive today I think he'd soil himself. I own a SLK320. It's been exceptionally reliable and not given me a day's problems. I'm sincerely glad that Dieter Zeische, a man who knows how to turn things around, has climbed in to get things in order and I'm excited about the future for Mercedes Benz.


May 15, 2007 1:10 AM

When my 95 C class stall while I was doing 80km/h, in the middle of roundabout, in the turn of a corner....just one month after a regular dealer service, I don't think that is driver to blame. The exact same problem goes with my brother's then new 2001 C class. Computer was replaced in both cases. Too bad mine is out of warrenty which cost me 4 grand to fix. Don't know about you but no more MB for me thank you.

Wim van Acker

May 25, 2007 11:43 PM

I own a 2007 S550 4Matic, delivered first week of November 2006. Summary: great ride but many major quality problems during the 10,000 miles, I have owned the car up to now.

I have experienced major quality problems, causing many visits to the dealer:
1 the engine had been wrongly mounted, causing vibrations in the powertrain. Engine mounts had to be replaced.
2 engine oil sensor was defective, requiring two stops at the dealer and exchange of the sensor in the engine
3 the premium leather of the front seats had been improperly stitched and wrongly put over the seats. Result: the seats had to be redone.
4 the anti-lock brakes have locked twice. The dealer has not been able to find out, what happened.
5 the wiper/washer system at times wipes, when there is no water on the windshield, and at times does not wipe, when the windshield is full of rain water.

MB USA has not been active to take care of my case (this is a very positive way to describe the careless, rude treatment by MB USA staff). In fact, the Regional Parts and Service Operations Manager told me, that my vehicle has less problems than average. He is not the brightest candle in the room, so I assume he is confused. If it is really true, what he told me (I have a witness, who attended the phone conversation, by the way) I would take his statement as a warning. In any case, I will get rid of this vehicle as soon as I can and will never buy a Mercedes again.

Best regards,

Wim van Acker

Richard E. savoy

June 26, 2007 3:46 PM

We've had 8 Mercedes Benz starting in September 1976. All but the last, a leased E350, were diesels. The 190D, 240D, 300D's and 300SD were gems, all made before 1980. The 1991 W126 350SDL was a beautiful car, but it suffered from the defective design of the #603.970 and 603.971 6 cylinder engines, with their rod-bending and cylinder distorting problems that MB, in true Chrysler fashion, failed to acknowledge.

Like most if not all MB made today, the E350 is a pile of junk. They want $55,000 for it. You couln't give it to me for free. Unlike the lambs being led to the slaughter, i.e., those who've never driven a real Mercedes and are fool enough to buy a now degraded brand name, I've the experience to know the difference. MB thinks it can trade on the proud name MB once had, and, for a time, they will be able so to do. But chickens do come home to roost and MB's are heading to Stuttgart in growing numbers every day.

John Stephens

August 3, 2007 3:05 PM

MBZ sucks!!! I bought a 2007 S550 in November 2006. I feel like a sucker, this car has so many problems it makes me sick. Just today I took the car in for it's scheduled service and I was told that I need brakes and rotors!!!

After less than 20k miles...

Never again!!!

I'm going back to Lexus..

Schwartis Thomson

August 4, 2007 5:03 PM

most , or let's just say , all of the complaints about mercedes cars quality come from the USA. people there must encourage MB USA to change the dealers and to improve the quality of the (Service there)

here in Europe Mercedes cars are the top quality cars, no other brand can even compete , other car manufacturers aren't even close

I own a 2007 S500 (W221) and I've never had any single problem in it during the 37000 kilometres, and it is really strange that people say the new model has quality problem and when we see the latest JD power quality rating we find three or four mercedes cars rates as the best in their classes.

Richard Savoy

August 17, 2007 7:49 AM

Having had Mercedces cars when they were well made, I'm appalled by the lack of substance, the "all plastic" feel of their cars. Perhaps I'm clinging to a time that's past, but there is something about heft and substance that to me seems timeles. I guess there is nothing that can be done about the "plasticization" of MB and other cars made today.

Our real grievance is with the way MB USA dusted us off, with a smirk I might add, when we asked for help as the engine on our 350SDL collapsed, as did many of them. They told us that if they were to help us, "that could get around". That comment told me all I needed to know about how low they'd sunk. And that was in 1999. If you want to deal with them today, do so at your peril. We never balked at paying top dollar for a car worth the money. MB's no longer are.

Richard E. Savoy


August 17, 2007 10:08 AM

MBUSA is horrible! I will never buy another MB. I have a 2002 c230 and had more problems than my first car in high school, which was a Ford Thunderbird.

Within the first 4 years, this is what went wrong:
broken sunroof - lever arm snapped
defective instrument panel
broken window switch
broken console cover
broken sunroof AGAIN - motor
steering wheel controls for instr. panel and radio no longer work
A/C leak
Alternator gone
Supercharger part for engine
paint chips
front seat belt on passenger side has to be engaged or it will beep me to death. (no one is in the seat mind you)

I will take that old Thunderbird over this garbage anyday.

Here is a good test for all considering a MB. Go to a reputable dealer in your city on any day at 8am and walk by the service department. Look and see how long the line is. Yes, many are getting their oil changed, but at the same time the service advisors are looking for problems!


August 21, 2007 9:32 AM

I have own three diesels. 86, 98, and 2005. All great cars. The new turbodiesel is incredible. I haven't had any problems with the drive train or any other components. The 2005 doesn't have the solid feel of the 86 and 98, but that is the price for fuel economy. I get 37 mpg on the highway, with 4 passengers, luggage at 75 mph.


August 23, 2007 12:29 AM

I have a C230 (2003) and my warranty expired like 2 weeks ago and my sunroof broke this last weekend. I took it in to the dealership and they made me PAY $1395! They said it was originally $4000, but out of "good will" they lowered it to $1395. I feel like I just got swindled BIG TIME! Also, all of a sudden my car is making these weird high pitch noises when I drive on the freeway. Now I have to take my car in AGAIN!

Disappointed MB Owner

October 1, 2007 12:11 AM

Those new mercedes are like graduate school projects--full of new technologies but needs a lot of tweaking and maintain after release. On the other hand, if a reputable / prestigious car maker can not make sure their products meet a minimum reliability expectation, it is time to go back to the drawing board, get rid of the new technologies and focus on quality RD and assemblies. One must learn how to walk before run, right?

M. Smith

October 11, 2007 1:01 PM

2002 c230

I have owned for 7 months-- spent $3000 to date for check engine light, worn oil hose, coolant leak, brake pads, the list continues-- I have not had my car for two weeks out of this time-- it whines and groans every morning--
NOW, I find out they have been putting Chrysler parts under the hood for everything, but charging Mercedes prices-- what the f---?!!!--

LAST time, if I want to be bent over and screwed and drive a chrysler with a mercedes emblem, I'll go to a mercedes dealer---


October 25, 2007 4:12 AM

I just leased a e350 4-matic (7-07, with 3800 miles now) and have had it in four times for a loud "groan" in the front of the car when starting or backing up . they have replaced the air compressor and its clutch and still noise persists. now dealer tells me that the "engineers" in Germany are working on the problem, aznd factory tells dealer not to affect any more reair attempt till their engineers have figured out the proble....god i miss my audi A-6


November 5, 2007 7:29 PM

You'll all be happy to know that Chrysler and MB have been untied, so any issues that may have come about as a result of the merger should go away (let's hope). I've been in the market for a German luxury car (pre-owned) for a while, but Mercedes just doesn't have the reputation for quality they used to. There are plenty of MB cars from the 60's, 70's, and 80's still racking up loads of miles, particularly the diesels (the only thing that stops them is body rust), but from the 90's onward, MB really slipped up somewhere. I would like to find a nice 94-95 S350D, but I think I will go for a 95-01 BMW 740iL instead because even though I trust the diesel engine, I don't like the idea of the rest of the car falling apart around me.

Wim van Acker

November 20, 2007 10:03 AM

Continuation from my May 25 posting (see above)

The technical problems with my 2007 S550 4Matic have continued.

The brake system has been defective, although it had been declared safe by the dealer at 10,000 miles: the front wheels were locking, when braking hard. I had a specialist from one of the world's largest brake suppliers assess the brake system. Conclusion: front wheel speed sensors not operating well. MB USA has had a technical specialist test drive my car. His assessment: "The brake system is doing, what it should be doing." Since I had an expert opinion confirming my own experiences, I insisted and ... they found irregularities on the front brake rotors, which interfered with the front wheel speed sensors.

This means, that just by pushing hard, with support by an expert opinion, the defect in my brake system has been acknowledged and found. It also means, that I have been driving around with a defective brake system for thousands of miles due to the technical incompetence of MB USA and its dealer. In fact, I would still be driving around with a defective brake system.

Moreover, several technical problems returned, or have never been solved. Examples: the compressor of the air suspension had to be replaced and two different types of vibrations inside the vehicle, caused by the engine and the rest of the driveline.

MB USA seems to be overwhelmed with this situation. I have received twice in writing promises to send me an explanation and a plan of action, how to solve the technical problems of my car. However, I have still not received a reply to my requests from October 1.

This is poor service after technical incompetence has not been able to take care of the problems with a USD 115,000 vehicle of poor quality.

God father

December 17, 2007 5:51 PM

happy holidays
guys stop whynning it all depend how you drive the car and to what kind of dealer you go to, lets face it still mbz the safest car on the roads,and may be your stories some how is true but i'm not here to defend mbz I have had over 6000 cars of mbz since I'm a private dealer along with other line of cars every car has it's problem and not because it's mbz not suppose to break down I have been a dealer where mbz sell the most cars in the country we don't have these problems. like one person is saying his slk is faulling apart by them selves, I could tell you stories about different cars that you favor will make your hair turn gray in no time talk to your dealer nicely with respect I bet you will get away with murder, you all have kids tell them to stop playing with the instruments like nintendo,and to stop hitting there feet with door panel and the glove compartement tell your private mechanic to stop bs you because he only fixes toyo huyndai, have happy holidays, me

Ben Marar

May 2, 2010 9:46 PM

I'm driving E 320 2003,the car runs perfect I already put 100 000 miles on it without any problems, everything looks like new and it drives like the day I bought it. I really don't know what those people are taking about,probably they are just unlucky ones :( . I am a MB customer for life, my next Mercedes, will be the new 2010 E 550. P.S I know just 2 best cars, new Merc and used Merc.

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