The quality system that Mercedes-Benz used to be proud of is stepping down the altar.
Not long ago, Mercedes-Benz released sales data for the first half of 2020. Data show that from January to June 2020, it has delivered 346,067 new vehicles in China, which has basically returned to the level of the same period of the previous year.
Compared with the results of BMW (including MINI) 329,069 and Audi 301,817, Mercedes-Benz won the first half of 2020.
However, the staged victory in China does not mean that Mercedes-Benz will be easy. On July 8, Daimler CEO Ola Kaellenius stated at the company’s annual shareholder meeting that despite the rebound in the Chinese market, the accumulated business losses in recent months cannot be recovered before the end of the year, and further cost reductions are needed.
In fact, Mercedes-Benz has been cutting costs for a long time. Associated with cost reduction is the quality crisis that comes with it.
According to an announcement issued by the Defective Products Management Center of the State Administration for Market Regulation, Mercedes-Benz has initiated 14 recalls in China since 2020. Its latest recall announcement was released almost simultaneously with the 2019 financial report.
Dozens of recalls, involving C-class, E-class, S-class, GLA, AMG, and other popular models covering almost all domestic and imported models, totaling 794,000 vehicles.
This figure not only far exceeds the sales volume of 346,000 vehicles in the first half of 2020, but also exceeds the total sales of Mercedes-Benz in China in 2019 (700,000 vehicles).
It is worth noting that in 2019, Mercedes-Benz’s quality performance is also not optimistic. Data show that in 2019, Mercedes-Benz recalled more than 1.45 million vehicles in China. In 2018, the number of recalls was less than 200,000.
It is not difficult to see that in the past two years, Mercedes-Benz’s brand image of “rigorous craftsmanship and high quality” has been difficult to stand upright.
Quality is no longer guaranteed
Data show that as of July 10, 2020, more than 30 auto companies in the domestic market have issued 73 recalls, with a total of 3.322 million vehicles recalled.
Among them, luxury brands represented by BBA initiated 41 recalls, involving approximately 1.611 million vehicles, and both the number and number of recalls accounted for more than half.
If luxury brands were the hardest hit area for car recalls in the first half of the year, then Mercedes-Benz was the top hard-hit area.
Throughout the first half of the year, Mercedes-Benz initiated 14 recalls involving nearly 800,000 vehicles, which is close to half of the total number of recalls of the entire luxury brand.
In contrast, BMW and Audi, both of which belong to the first camp of luxury car brands, appear to be more “subtle”. Audi recalled about 410,000 defective products in the first half of the year, while BMW recalled less than 10,000.
Among the dozens of recalls of Mercedes-Benz, the recall that was initiated on June 29 due to the potential safety hazards of oil leakage was the one involving the most vehicles, including imported C-class, SLC-class, CLS-class, E-class, GLC SUV, and domestically produced C-class. Dozens of models including Class, E Class, GLK Class, etc., totaling 669,000 vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz’s announcement shows that for some vehicles within the scope of this recall, the junction of the engine’s high-pressure fuel pump and the low-pressure fuel pipe will be affected by a long-term thermal load, and the sealing performance will be reduced. When the vehicle is started under cold conditions, oil leakage may occur, posing safety risks.
In response, Mercedes-Benz will replace the high-pressure fuel pump fuel pipes for vehicles within the scope of the recall free of charge.
However, judging from the response of the Mercedes-Benz customer service center, in addition to the oil leakage problem, the vehicle involved seems to have problems such as engine water pump failure, crankshaft failure, oil emulsification, and abnormal engine noise. This can also be corroborated by many complaints from third-party vehicle complaint platforms such as Car Quality Network.
It is worth mentioning that the large-scale outbreak of Mercedes-Benz quality problems did not start in the first half of this year.
Refer to the recall announcement issued by the Defective Product Management Center of the State Administration for Market Regulation. In 2019, Mercedes-Benz issued 27 recall announcements in China, recalling a total of 1.4582 million defective vehicles, ranking first in the domestic market recalled brands that year.
In addition to product design and assembly problems, the sharp decline in product quality is another important reason. Beijing Benz’s factory in Yizhuang, Daxing, has been repeatedly reported by the media that there are problems with car materials and parts reduction.
Take Mercedes-Benz E-Class, C-Class, and GLC SUV as examples. After domestic production, Mercedes-Benz officially replaced some of the materials of several models from aluminum alloy to steel under the slogan of “reducing maintenance costs for Chinese consumers.”
But the problem is that domestic models will lengthen the body, and the material “aluminum for steel” will greatly increase the weight of the vehicle, which will bring hidden quality problems to the vehicle.
Around 2018, the hidden dangers caused by the reduction of body materials began to emerge. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class frequently fell into the “broken axle door” storm due to the break of the shock absorber.
After the broken axle incident was exposed, Mercedes-Benz did not admit that the product had quality problems and only replaced some of the vehicles involved with enhanced shock absorbers.
It was not until May and November 2019 that Mercedes-Benz was forced to initiate a recall of nearly one million C-class and E-class models. In addition to broken shafts, the recall also included tire blowouts and abnormal engine noise.
In connection with the well-known Xi’an female car owners’ rights protection incident in April last year, we can see that Mercedes-Benz’s brand image of “rigorous craftsmanship and high quality” has long since been “negative”.
Arrogance has become a habit
In addition to frequent quality problems, Mercedes-Benz’s arrogant attitude has also been criticized in China.
“It is enough to spend more than 1 million to add trouble to me.” These are the original words of a Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid owner in an interview with the media.
In the eyes of many Mercedes-Benz owners, the arrogant attitude of Mercedes-Benz is even more unacceptable than frequent quality problems.
The complaints of car owners are not nonsense.
Judging from many public reports, in response to product quality issues, Mercedes-Benz and 4S stores often “kick the ball” phenomenon, and “problems occur-consumers negotiate with 4S stores-leave the car to observe-observe no results-consumer requirements “Return/Exchange-Leave it alone” has become Mercedes-Benz’s usual routine.
In addition, Mercedes-Benz also has many behaviors such as the existence of the overlord clause and the misinterpretation of the three guarantees policy. As a result, many consumers said that customers who were original “God” in front of Mercedes-Benz have become disadvantaged groups and “disadvantaged people” and have not received their due respect. Even though Mercedes-Benz issued a relevant statement under pressure from public opinion, it basically used the words extremely official, without sincerity of apology and guilt towards consumers.
Compared with the arrogance of facing consumers, Mercedes-Benz’s attitude towards the public is not much better.
In 2017, the Takata airbag incident broke out. The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine has repeatedly interviewed Mercedes-Benz and asked for a recall of the problematic vehicle. However, Mercedes-Benz was indifferent several times and did not initiate the recall until the last minute. Such an attitude is very different from its US performance in the market.
Then look back to 2020. At the beginning of this year, Beijing Benz issued an application to the Tianjin government, stating that “If work cannot be resumed on February 10, Beijing Benz will lose 400 million yuan a day.” At the height of the epidemic in China, this move by Mercedes-Benz made many people feel chilling.
The recall initiated by Mercedes-Benz on June 29 was also carried out when the State Administration for Market Supervision and Administration initiated a defect investigation, which is a passive recall.
However, Mercedes-Benz’s arrogance is obviously emboldened.
Statistics show that in the second quarter when the epidemic gradually eased, Mercedes-Benz delivered a sales report of 207,000 vehicles, a sharp increase of 21.6% compared to the same period last year.
It was precise with its eye-catching performance in the second quarter that Mercedes-Benz was able to surpass BMW with 16,998 vehicles and regain the title of luxury market sales champion.
It is worth mentioning that this interpretation of “True Fragrance Law” is not only available this year.
Around 2017, Mercedes-Benz fell into the “spontaneous combustion door” due to multiple spontaneous combustion accidents of E-class and GLC. Although public opinion was fierce at that time, it did not affect Mercedes-Benz’s best-selling. That year, Mercedes-Benz’s sales increased by 26% year-on-year, killing Audi (1%) and BMW (15%).
In 2018, due to the large-scale E-class and GLC shock absorber fracture accident, Mercedes-Benz was once again pushed to the forefront of public opinion. But this year, not only did Mercedes-Benz still top the BBA’s sales growth rate, reaching 11.1%, but it also replaced BMW’s luxury brand as the runner-up in sales, only a few thousand units behind the champion Audi.
Last year, although the rights protection incident of female car owners in Xi’an once made Mercedes-Benz in a whirlpool of public opinion, in 2019, Mercedes-Benz still ranked second in the sales list of domestic luxury brands. In the case of the overall decline of the national automobile market by 8.2%, it achieved 6.2%. increase.
No matter how frequent product quality problems occur, and no matter how car owners and users complain, Mercedes-Benz will not move, and the products will still sell well. Looking at the domestic auto market, there is probably no second such a proud car brand besides Mercedes-Benz.
Can you continue to lead
With the opening of the second half of the auto market in 2020, it is not easy for Mercedes-Benz to continue to lead.
In the first half of the year, although Mercedes-Benz’s cumulative sales were in a leading position, its sales volume did not diverge from BMW. Data show that after entering the second quarter, Mercedes-Benz sold 207,000 vehicles, and BMW sold more than 212,000 vehicles. Judging from the performance in the second quarter, Mercedes-Benz is not dominant.
In the second half of the year, with the intensive launch of new cars from rivals BMW and Audi, Mercedes-Benz will face greater pressure.
The slow response in the domestic new energy market may be another “stumbling block” for Mercedes-Benz to continue to lead.
As of 2019, China’s new energy vehicle market has produced and sold more than 1 million vehicles for two consecutive years. However, in the past two years, Mercedes-Benz has not taken the lead in the new energy vehicle market.
Until early 2020, Mercedes-Benz did not release its new energy plan. According to the plan, by the end of 2020, Mercedes-Benz will launch 5 pure electric passenger car products and 20 plug-in hybrid models.
However, judging from the high price of EQC, the first domestic pure electric SUV model launched by Mercedes-Benz in November 2019, and the not-so-sought-after actual performance, it is not easy for Mercedes-Benz’s new energy plan to achieve significant results.
In addition, considering the “salary cuts and layoffs, strict cost control” plan to be implemented by the Daimler Group, it is still unknown whether the quality of Mercedes-Benz products will continue to decline in the future.
In addition, judging from the constantly exposed scandals of share reduction, the constant outbreak of quality problems, and the arrogant attitude towards problem-solving, Mercedes-Benz never seems to have truly respected the Chinese market and domestic consumers.
Correspondingly, Mercedes-Benz’s “all kinds of bad practices” are making domestic consumers’ dissatisfaction over.
Although there are many unfavorable variables, Mercedes-Benz still appears quite confident.
Kang Linsong said in an interview with the media: “China is one of the most promising markets and one of the driving forces of Mercedes-Benz’s success. The recent performance of Mercedes-Benz in the Chinese market has reasons to keep a cautiously optimistic attitude.”
And Yang Ming, President and CEO of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales and Service Co., Ltd., also said: “In the second half of 2020, we will continue to uphold the customer first’, continue to promote product offensive, upgrade customer service, customer care, and Digital brand experience.”
However, if Mercedes-Benz does not implement the slogan of “upgrading user service experience” and make changes in product distribution, product quality, and problem-solving attitudes, the myth that Mercedes-Benz wants to lead the Chinese luxury brand market and continue to write sales and profit, will be empty talk.