Car Auctions: “She’s got the Mercedes-Benz. Uhhh…”

30 Mar

Yes, I know that in The Eagles song ‘Hotel California’ , the line is written “…She’s got the Mercedes Bends…” and that Don Henley had to explain to eagle-eyed fans (see what I did there?)  that this was not a spelling mistake and was in fact a play on words.

So, I am now taking Don’s lyrics and I am making a play on his words. In years to come, I will be asked tirelessly about the exact meaning of the title and whether I was making a dry social comment about the collapse of western civilization, using the metaphor of car auctions as a symbol of the capitalist system devouring itself by over-producing cars which in turn leads to the collapse of their value and subsequent discounting to below the gross cost of their manufacture.

I shall smile back through unfocused eyes as my bodyguard refreshes my single malt and, with the slightest tilt of my head, I shall indicate that I wish for the interview to be terminated and for the pink doves to be released over the city.

My nucleus of faithful blog subscribers – those who followed me prior to February 9th 2013 and who remained loyal despite experiencing great emotional and intellectual suffering – will be carried ahead of me on gilded chairs while school children dressed in the flags of the world’s nations perform “Next” by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band using only mime and natural yogurt.

I cannot stand Mercedes Benz products.

They make my flesh crawl. They symbolize a value system that I am deeply uncomfortable with. The signals they send out are not the ones that I want to transmit. Every Mercedes that I have ever driven has been well-built and outstandingly reliable. But I sometimes couldn’t wait to get out of them and simply drive something else – anything else – as if to confirm who I really was.

Mercedes Benz have built up a formidable brand value over the years. However, they are trading on their glorious past far too much. It simply is no longer true to say that a Mercedes never rusts and it will last forever; they rust pretty badly since Mercedes changed their steel supplier in the mid-nineties and their long-term reliability is wobbly, to say the least. Sure, their trucks and vans are still good but when did you last follow a Mercedes Sprinter van which had both tail lights working, eh…?

Then, there was the infamous A-Series “Moose-test” fiasco where Mercedes made two outrageous errors of technical judgement.

1) They released the original A-Series cars knowing full well that they could tip over if thrown sharply from left to right and back, as if avoiding a moose at speed.

2) Mercedes solved this technical problem in a shoddy way by reducing the ability of the car to steer quite so sharply in the first place, by increasing the ‘toe-out’ of the front wheels.

For many motoring enthusiasts, that disgracefully lazy ‘remedy’ marked the end of ‘old’ Mercedes (top-notch engineering) and the beginning of ‘new’ Mercedes (top-notch marketing).

They now offer so many car models  that there is at least one Mercedes for each of us on this planet to take a personal dislike to. Tell me that your pulse doesn’t quicken  to at least one of the following:

1) You are driving alone through an unfamiliar county on the back-roads at dusk after visiting an old friend. A soft rain begins to fall and you switch your windscreen wipers on and change from marker lights to dipped headlights. As you do so, you become aware that a silver 2006 Mercedes S500 with tinted glass is following you, always keeping just far enough back so that you cannot read it’s license plate.

2) Wanting to show your devotion and deep love for your partner after having both been through a hellish month, you drive out to a small but expensive restaurant that you both always promised you’d visit when you had the money, which you still don’t. As you turn in to the street which is a clearway and does not permit parking, the restaurant has a black 2012 Mercedes E Class Executive SE  stopped outside. The suited driver is standing by the rear passenger door and he is looking directly towards you as you drive by.

3) Having driven a company Mercedes C-Class for three years, it is now at the end of its lease and due for renewal. For a change of scenery, you select a cash-equivalent Audi from the list you are given to choose from. For the next month, all your acquaintances greet you with: “Hi…! Hey…what happened to the Mercedes?”

Am I getting anywhere here? Is it just me? Is there something specifically ‘Mercedes’ about those situations that simply wouldn’t happen if one swapped out all those cars in the stories for Lincolns or BMWs or a Lexus?

I mean, try reading through those stories again and instead of the Mercedes, insert  “1959 red and cream Chevrolet Corvette” and see how you feel now.

A Mercedes makes a statement far beyond its shape and composition. It announces one’s political and social outlook like no other cars does. It doesn’t wait for you to speak, it speaks for you without your permission and over the top of your own voice. It is as if Mercedes is becoming the victim of its own advertising campaigns. By offering humorless elitism and superiority (“Unlike Any Other.” “The Future of The Automobile.”) they attract many humorless people who wish to purchase admiration.

If you are unlucky enough to be living in one of the world’s many refugee camps right now, you gain respect from most people but you neither seek nor receive admiration. What matters most to you is this: If your food is delivered off the back of a 2010 Chevrolet or a Toyota, then you and your children are probably going to survive. If your food is delivered off the back of a 2010 Rolls Royce then almost anything could happen in the next 24 hours so you keep awake. But if your food is delivered off the back of a 2010 Mercedes Benz, you and your children have probably already been acquired by a warlord so you practise real quick how to smile and mix concrete at the same time.

Photograph at top of page, taken three days ago. Mercedes Benz E200 Avantgarde CGI Blue efficiency, Tip Auto, 1.8, petrol, Calcite White. Full black cow (sorry – full leather interior) and parking sensors. 14,500 warranted miles. First registered May 2010. One owner. Guaranteed as having no major mechanical faults by the auction house and vendor. Sold this Monday for £29, 100 ($46,269) at auction.

If you want one right now with U.K. specification, Mercedes Benz do have just one, a 2011 model for sale up in Scotland, yours for £34,999 ($55,648). The only other white one available is this one pictured above. White ones are scarce. Black or silver ones are everywhere you look, being the weapon of choice of the airport transfer brigade. You don’t want to spend all that money and be mistaken for a chauffeur, do you? Of course not.

The dealer who bought this Merc was possibly tracking it for the last few weeks as it neared the end of its lease.  He probably had it advertised as  “for sale – awaiting picture” for the last month  so that he could line up a buyer for the car in advance.

The leasing company who still owned it and the car’s actual keeper and driver would have been blissfully unaware of his audacity. Then, the dealer followed it down to the auction house on Monday and made £5,000 ($7,950) profit for a day’s work. It is not an easy way to make a living but two cars a month like that and you are earning $190,000 a year.

As you walk around a car auction, you may be surprised at just how many people are continually jabbering on their phones as they walk the lines of cars. Now you know why. All you need is a credit card and the telephone number of somebody who wants a white Mercedes because they hate getting mistaken for a chauffeur all the time.

After all, one doesn’t have to like a product personally in order to sell it. More on crystal-meth dealers in a future Roadwax post…

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One Response to “Car Auctions: “She’s got the Mercedes-Benz. Uhhh…””

  1. Fran Festa March 30, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Excellent! “mistaken for a chauffer….” Classic, funny stuff! I absolutely love these stories.

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