When you buy an expensive motor car there are two things that surely you have a right to expect – a good quality car and good quality customer service. What a pity that Mercedes Benz seems to believe its customers deserve neither.

My brother bought a C180 Kompressor with 70 000 km on it in 2010. In June 2011 with 100 000km on the clock the car went in for a service to the Pinetown Mercedes Benz Service Centre, NMI. It was then discovered that the timing chain needed replacing. However Mercedes then said it was simply the tensioner that needed tightening, which they did. The car was still under motor plan at this stage although it was the last service where it was covered. In January this year, with 117 000km on the clock it went back to NMI Pinetown for a minor “A” service. Once again he was told the timing chain needed replacement. This time, however once they opened it up it was definitely the timing chain that needed attention! Surprised at the car needing such a major job at just over 100 000km (72 000 miles) my brother went online and both researched this issue and discussed it in a range of chat rooms and forums dedicated to Mercedes Benz, and the Mercedes Benz Club. The consensus was that this kind of repair should not be required before the car has at least 250 000 miles (402 000 km) on the clock.

NMI Pinetown claimed the damage was normal wear and tear, but treated the car as though it was still under warranty and offered my brother a 50% discount on parts and 25% on the labour. After much arguing they agreed to supplement the original offer, which it turns out was from Mercedes South Africa and not the dealer, with another 25% on Labour. 2 days later Mercedes South Africa called him to say they had a final offer of 50% on Parts and 75% on labour. When he went to collect the car the service manager told him they knew nothing about it and he had to pay the original 50% offer if he wanted the car released. The dealer called Merc SA who confirmed they had made a mistake and were sorry but if he wanted the car he had to pay the higher amount. Neither Merc SA or the dealer were prepared to honour the offer made by Merc SA.

Why, if this is normal wear and tear, is the company subsidising part of the repair cost? And does Mercedes Benz expect their consumers to accept that their car will manage a mere 100 000km before needing this kind of major work on it? What is the point of buying a luxury vehicle if its engine life is a little over 100 000km?

The complete lack of interest shown by Mercedes Benz SA to my brother’s queries about the work that needed doing is not what might be expected from the producers of a car with the image Mercedes Benz has.

The result of this is that my brother had to pay R17000 for repairs which the car should not have needed, and, a long-time fan of Mercedes Benz, has decided he will never again own a Benz.

All for R17 000 – you’d think Mercedes Benz would have thought a loyal customer worth more than that. It seems you’d have been wrong