Mercedes GL450 Buying Experience – Nightmare at Fletcher Jones4
The following story tracks the actual sales and service experience of long time AutoPacific project manager Mary Beth Martin. Mary Beth’s husband leased her a new Mercedes GL450 from Fletcher Jones Motorcars. The GL450 is the top-of-the-line Mercedes SUV – not cheap by any means. Fletcher Jones is the largest Mercedes-Benz dealership in the USA if not in the world. Located in Newport Beach, California Fletcher Jones is admittedly a bit landlocked for the amount of business they push through the dealership, but that is a feeble excuse for the experience Mary Beth had when acquiring her new ride. Read on, the story will surprise you.
Nightmare at Fletcher Jones Motorcars
Purchasing or leasing a new vehicle is a wonderful thing or at least it should be! My husband surprised me with a new Mercedes GL 450 as an early Christmas present. He said all I had to do was pick out the color (I had already told him what features I wanted on my next vehicle), sign (documents) and leave (December 5th). He had prearranged the deal with a salesman at Fletcher Jones Motorcars in Newport Beach, California.
I need to give you a little background information: my husband arranged to lease two vehicles in the deal, one for myself and one for his partner’s wife. Both vehicles were to be GL450s equipped the same way (or were supposed to be). We were to sign for the vehicles and Fletcher Jones was to bill my husband’s company. So I was all excited about my first luxury vehicle (my husband already has a S500, but my vehicle was a Ford Expedition schlepmobile) and since purchasing my Expedition had been wonderful I anticipated this to be even better (at least that is what the Mercedes and Fletcher Jones ads implied).
Read on for my story of woe…
I scheduled the appointment with the Fletcher Jones salesman for December 7th (arrived at 11:30am). When I arrived I was greeted by the brother of my salesman who was unavailable due to a personal matter). His brother said he would take care of everything. He was very courteous and offered the standard Mercedes bottle of water. We went back to his office and he asked what things I wanted on the vehicle.
My must-have features included – nothing particularly exotic here:
Heated seats (I am always cold)
DVD player/rear seat entertainment system
Then the big question – what color? I said I was not that concerned about the exterior color as I was about the interior (two kids – wanted a dark color to hide future spills). We then took a drive to their storage lot of vehicles to look at colors. I decided I liked a black exterior the best. Then we went back to the dealership. This is where my experience started to decline. Evidently, black is a popular color, but not with the equipment I wanted.
Computer Inventory System Only Works One Way – Select Color First
The dealership’s computer system seemed only able to look for a vehicle once an exterior and interior color was selected. It could not search for the equipment I wanted and list what color options were available. An hour later a vehicle was found by a process of picking a color, then moving on to another color, then another and so forth. Worse, the vehicle found not have the DVD Player, but I was told it could be installed in a couple of days. They would be calling me to set up an installation appointment. I was told it would take two days to put the DVD player in. I was to drive the new vehicle home and they would send someone to my house in the Expedition by 4:30PM to bring me the vehicle and conduct a new vehicle orientation.
The Entire Purchase Process Should Take No Longer Than 45-Minutes Once Vehicle is Chosen
Doing the paperwork took an eternity. I was left alone in the office for over an hour. That facility was kept at an extremely low temperature (at least it seemed that way to me). Finally, I left a note for my salesman Eric that I would be sitting out in my car to wait to sign the papers because I was so cold. Finally around 2:15PM (two hours and 45 minutes later) I was in the F&I office signing the documents. That took about 15 minutes, then we moved on to my Bluetooth training and I was able to head for home by 3:00PM.
If You Make a Timing Commitment, Keep It
This was the Christmas season and I had plans to go to a Christmas dinner and concert that night (starting at 5:30PM). By 5:00PM my Expedition had not arrived. At 5:15PM a man came to train me on the GL 450. I told him he had to make it brief because I needed to get ready to go out. By 5:45PM I left him waiting for the gentleman with my Expedition and changed for dinner. My Expedition showed up around 6:30PM. I was late for my evening plans. But I must say the men that came were very helpful and courteous. I only wish they had arrived at the planned 4:30PM.
Incomplete Vehicle – Whaddya Mean No Crossbars Come with the Roofrack?
The next day my husband asked, “where is the roof rack?” I said, “it is on the car,” (anybody can see that or so I thought!). He said he was talking about the crossbars. I said they must be in the car somewhere. Unfortunately, I found out that the vehicle comes with the bars that run the length of the vehicle, but the crossbars are a $375.00 option. In my world when I asked for a roof rack I assumed the crossbars would be included in that “Yes” (once again the old adage don’t assume anything you only make an ass out of yourself comes true). Since we do a lot of skiing the crossbars are a necessity to carry our Thule storage container. I also want to add that in my opinion the vehicle looks horrible with the crossbars installed. (See pictures)
The Rear Seat Entertainment Fiasco – Poor Installation Commitments
Getting the expensive DVD player installed ($3000.00+) continued my bad experience. After waiting five days, I called the dealership about when they were going to contact me to install the DVD player. I was told that it would be three weeks before it could be installed. I told the customer service rep that I was told by my salesman that it would be installed within a week and would take a couple of days. She said that was impossible.
I went back to the salesman to explain I was not happy with the new time frame because we were leaving for a Mammoth Mountain ski vacation in less than three weeks and I wanted the DVD player for the drive up (since he told me it would be installed in one week). He made it sound like that was no problem and it would be take care of. I returned the GL 450 to the dealership that Wednesday and was given a Ford Five Hundred to drive. I was told it would take a couple of days, but I should have it back by Saturday or Sunday at the latest. Not a problem – I was now driving a Ford (a vehicle brand I was familiar with and had always been pleased with).
Saturday afternoon – I called the service department and was told my vehicle would not be ready until Monday. Had to insist on talking to someone else because my schedule did not work for picking the vehicle up on Monday (believe it or not, I was not enjoying the Ford). I was promised the vehicle would be ready on Sunday.
Proactive Follow-Up Not a Fletcher Jones Forte
I need to mention that no one ever calls me first from Fletcher Jones. I always had to initiate the phone calls. By Sunday afternoon I was wondering about my vehicle. I called my contact and was told the vehicle was back (they outsource the DVD installation), but I could not have it yet because there were vehicles parked in front of it and they could not get to it. Go figure! I was told someone would call me as soon as they could move it (this was 2:00PM).
By 4:45PM I wanted my vehicle. I called Fletcher Jones again and was given my salesperson’s voice mail. I called back and this time insisted on talking to a real person. I was transferred to my salesperson again (little did I know that Fletcher Jones can transfer a telephone call to someone’s cell phone). He answered and when I told him who I was and what I wanted, he cut me off and said he was about to go into a movie and did not want to be bothered. I was a little surprised because I thought he was at work. My feeling is – if he did not want to be bothered he should not have answered his cell phone. I quickly said I was on my way to the dealership and wanted my vehicle. He said he would make a call and have the vehicle ready. When I arrived at Fletcher Jones a person was waiting for me and sent someone to get my vehicle. But why couldn’t they have done that three hours earlier?
GL 450 Rear Seat Entertainment System – What Were They Thinking?
In reality the DVD Player is not that great at all, especially given the price ($3,000.00+). The DVD changer is in the cargo area – not practical when you are traveling. You have to unpack the vehicle to change the DVDs. In hindsight I should have purchased the DVD players that fit over the headrest (Target has them on sale this week for under $150.00 each). Sucker must be my middle name!
Salesperson Contends I am a Difficult Person Because I Wanted Commitments Followed
A couple of days later the salesperson called me to say he might have been abrupt with me on the phone. I agreed with him. He then went on to tell me that I was difficult and hard to please (implied not as a compliment). I told him I just believe that if you are made a promise, the person who made the deal needs to follow it through. Evidently, I should never have been promised the DVD installed in a week. Unknown to me, the salesperson had indeed put my vehicle ahead of other people to get the rear seat entertainment system installed in the time frame originally promised. He claimed he jumped through hoops to please me. My reply was that I was not asking for anything that he had not promised me to make the sale. Our telephone conversation declined from there.
Customer Satisfaction Follow-up
Fletcher Jones’ Customer Service Manager contacted me (called December 19, 2006). She had been informed that I was not happy with my experiences. She wanted to know what she could do about my experience. I said if she could change history that would be about it. I could not think of anything that could magically change how I was treated. She said she wanted to think about my experience and would call back in a couple of days – never heard from her again (as of March 12, 2007).
Give Me the Good Ol’ Ford Buying Experience Instead of the Vaunted Mercedes Experience
Let me close with saying I love my new ML 450 and it is a pleasure to drive. But I would trade in my leasing experience in a heartbeat. When I got my Ford Expedition from Villa Ford it was everything Fletcher Jones was not – Quick, Efficient, Trustworthy, Pleasant to Deal With, Never Insulted Me. Now if only Villa Ford could sell Mercedes too.
Mary Beth Martin