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High End Luxury Cars

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  • I don't drive an Audi or a Lexus, but I am highly amused by the belief that the US Steel information on steel versus aluminum is not just a bit of biased advertising. How about looking at the biased aluminum side of things.

    http://www.autoaluminum.org/crash.htm

    Oh my, aluminum is better in a crash than steel.

    Or how about a paper by some MIT engineers, who studied the two materials.

    http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/0108/Kelkar-0108.html

    You can go on and on about this issue. Aluminum has advantages and so does steel. I won't bother to try to interpret the engineering data that one can easily find in abundance. Just don't try to give a totally one sided view of something based on just one side of the story.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Nope I've never disagreed with you about the business end. I've said from day one that you were correct about the aspect of this discussion as you continue to be. The only thing I disagreed with was the theory about the average buyer caring about such business dealing or that Mercedes would lose their ability to sell cars because of their corporate problems. They haven't lost the ability to sell cars for a premium over Lexus or anyone else. That is where I disagreed and still do. There has been no big sales drop or even a drop at all in the U.S. market. The car you said would be the start of the end, the S-Class is still more popular in its class than everything else, except the much cheaper LS. The new S-Class will be hugely popular so they haven't lost any selling ability like you predicted. That is where I disagree totally. The SL, CL, SLR and Maybach all still sell. Sure the Maybach forecast was way to optimistic, as was Rolls-Royce's. They misjudged the market size, but that is another issue.

    That they have a profit problem now I never doubted would happen. Honestly I thought it would have happened sooner considering the the three problem Mercedes, 1998 ML, 2000 S, and the 2001 C-Class have been on the road for a while and the warranty costs should have shot through the roof a few years ago. It's like you said it take time for things like that to catch up with a company and when they do....look out! I agree totally.

    But hey you know me I'm more into the actual cars than the business end, but not totally at the expense of the company or common sense like Ferdinand Piech and his VW projects. Even I realize Mercedes isn't healthy enough to go chasing Ferrari with limited production, slim-profit sports cars. See...lol?

    This new guy has made some tough decisions and I think he's right the ship. Never before has MB head ever stop development of a vehicle in order to examine cost. Mercedes always kept right on developing a vehicle no matter how much it costs in the past. I can only imagine what he is doing that German pride will never allow to be revealed. I say in 2-3 years you'll see a real difference in those things you keep up with, which on the car side certain new models are already being physically built better (SLK, CLS) and we'll just have to see how their reliability holds up.

    M
  • gs450gs450 Posts: 10
    Just curious as to everyone's thoughts on the COMAND system in the current mercedes models. What direction do you think Mercedes should take with their new models, interface everything through a touch screen like the new Cadillac STS, or go the BMW route with something like I-drive but make it so that you don't need to be a rocket scientist to use all the functions.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Good question and we will find out when the new S-Class is shown in Sept.

    I think I read somewhere where Mercedes plans to implement their version of idrive/MMI, but only for the Nav functions, not almost everything as in the BMW system.

    I personally think they should set it up more or less like the Acura RL. You can use the controller to do everything or nothing at all.

    That way you have a choice. No choice as with idrive is a mistake, imo.

    M
  • oacoac Posts: 1,594
    If I were MB, I will completely do away with those yucky buttons that litter the dash. Do a simple touch screen for the Nav a la Lexus. Use touch buttons that fits snugly with the dash like the ones in the new GS to control the audio, climate, etc.. The key is to keep the dashboard clean and uncluttered. IOW, make it simple, yet elegant !
  • gs450gs450 Posts: 10
    Merc1,

    I lived in the middle east for a number of years, and as im sure you know they have the S320 (now S350) there and its quite popular as well. One thing that always upset me about Mercedes was the fact that they offered these stripped down versions of S320s, and when i say stripped, i mean cars without even leather seats, let alone other options that one would expect on such an expensive vehicle. The shocking thing is that they still sell them by the truckload. Just curious as to what your take is on Mercedes selling S-classes so devoid of features.
  • rcf8000rcf8000 Posts: 619
    My sense is that the Europeans think Americans are wierd with regard our equating leather seats with "luxury".
  • pablo_lpablo_l Posts: 491
    It's a cultural thing, several people in Europe prefer a nice fabric over leather. Cashmere after all is more expensive than Connolly leather... (not saying that they use Cashmere, of course not, but there is something to be said for the breathability of good quality fabrics).

    And sometimes, the less one has, the fewer things break. Popular with people that put many miles on their cars, they'd rather have top notch lumbar support than several gimmicky features...
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Well I think they should sell what is popular in whatever market they're in. Here an S-Class without leather and all the goodies simply wouldn't fly and I'm not sure I'd want one like that either to tell you the truth.

    The thing I'd like to see from Mercedes and BMW, Jaguar and Audi are smaller engined versions of their flagship cars. You know like the S350, 740i (300hp V8), XJ6 and XJ8 (3.5L V8) and the smaller V8 version of the A8..I forget the displacement and hp ratings at the moment. Of course I'd love to see more diesels since BMW and Mercedes have really reached the pinnacle in Diesel engine development. The new 3.0L V6 CDI engine is awesome and BMW's new 3.0L I6 diesel kicks out 272hp and like over 350lb-ft of torque. More diesels will come after 2006, but the smaller petrol engine versions of their flagships I don't think will ever be sold here.

    These smaller engine versions would be a buyers only chance to get some of the features deleted (or made optional) on a S-Class/7-Series level car, they'll never do it on the versions they import here now.

    I noticed your handle, are you holding out to buy a GS450h or the updated petrol GS450?

    M
  • gs450gs450 Posts: 10
    Even though i am a lexus fan, like Oac and lexusguy i have been disappointed with the direction lexus has taken with the new GS. It seems that they still aren't gonna challenge BMW when it comes to driving dynamics and mercedes with the horsepower war. In an ideal world i would probably want to buy the new CLS especially with the new mb v8 next year, but with the direction mercedes' reliability has been going these last few years i can't bring myself to get one. Infiniti really seems to be catching my eye but they still have to go some way before i consider them on the same level with BMW, MB, and lexus.
  • pearlpearl Posts: 336
    if so, whaddya think? Even though it may not be a direct competitor to the RL, GS or M, many will compare it when looking for a new car in this price range.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Interesing, so then you're kinda stuck on a decision then huh? Of course of the cars mentioned I like the CLS the most, by far.

    The GS has always been a curious animal at Lexus. It was never sporty enough to challenge BMW and doesn't have the variants to challenge the E-Class. I don't think Lexus well ever change their beliefs about a car of this size to seriously challenge BMW's 5-Series. With Infiniti also playing the sport card very well with the new M35/M45 I think the GS will once again be an afterthought in the class.

    Now their new IS, due to be shown any day now may be a fundamental shift in policy because they already have the ES330 for the folks who couldn't care less about actual "driving".

    M
  • oacoac Posts: 1,594
    "... ES330 for the folks who couldn't care less about actual "driving"."

    Fortunately for Lexus, these are the real paying customers - the ones that butters Lexus' bread, so to speak. All cars cannot be the same to all people. It may surprise you Merc1, that there are far more people who love cushy, quiet, luxurious, ride than those who'd suffer through bone-jarring rides of your typical performance machines. The former overwhelmingly prefers Lexus, while the latter are dispersed among the other brands - MB, BMW, Audi, and now Infiniti.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I think you took my post wrong and/or missed the point. Of course I understand that a lot like the ES type of ride, but I wouldnt' agree that they are the majority, in fact they're a dying breed as everyone is making their cars sportier and/or searching for a better ride/handling compromise with each redesign.

    I have older relatives, friends, neighbors who love their ES330s, DeVilles and everything else that isn't done up in the sports sedan theme.

    Your post illustrates my point perfectly though, Lexus and "sport" simply aren't used in the same sentence by most and thus their sportier cars are passed over by a huge margin, that was my point. Not whether or not cars like the ES330 have a purpose or market.

    I also wouldn't consider a M35/45 or 5-Series a bone jarring ride either. We aren't talking M5s or C55 AMGs here. There are cars that combine sport and luxury with plenty of each, but cars like the ES throw handling out the window completely. The ES is alone when it comes to import luxury cars, nobody else is even playing the same game, hence its popularity. Not a bad business.

    M
  • "What has MB done for the industry in the last 15 years?...Yes, MB has managed to do more here in 120 years than Lexus has in 15. "

    You must have been living under a rock for the last 15 years. Even if we disregard countless Mercedes innovations and only include those introduced since 1989 Mercedes STILL trumps Lexus by a wide margin. Virtually every safety feature in every Lexus car was pioneered and introduced first by Mercedes, if not Volvo or BMW. In fact, Lexus has contributed NOTHING in the way of safety. The LS430 flagship sedan doesn't even offer rear side airbags!

    Mercedes Safety Firsts (1989-2005):

    1989: Front Passenger Airbag
    1989: Automatic Roll-bar
    1992: Electronic Brake Proportioning System
    1995: Electronic Stability Control
    1996: Brake Assist
    1998: Rear Seatbelt ETDs and Load Limiters
    1998: First Crash Compatible SUV
    1998: Dual Stage Airbags
    1999: Side Curtain Airbags
    2001: First Electro-hydraulic Braking System
    2002: Pre-Safe I

    BMW Safety Firsts: (1989-2005)

    1994: Interlocking Door Anchor System
    1994: 4-Channel ABS Braking System
    1994: Dual Threshold Airbag Deployment
    1997: Head Protection Side Airbags
    1997: Battery Safety Terminal
    1998: Rear Side Airbags
    1998: Emergency Telematics
    2001: Driver and Passenger Knee Airbags
    2002: Adaptive Brake Lights

    Volvo Safety Firsts: (1989-2005)

    1990: 3-Point Rear Center Seatbelt
    1991: SIPS
    1994: Front Side Airbags
    1998: WHIPS
    2002: Roll Stability Control

    Lexus Safety Firsts: (1989-2005)

    *CRICKET*

    As far as safety is concerned Lexus has contributed absolutely nothing. Not only has that, but Lexus often trails behind several years before it adopts new technology. For example, it took Lexus until 1992 to adopt the front passenger airbag, 4 years behind Mercedes. Again, it took Lexus until 1999 to adopt Electronic Stability Control, 4 years behind Mercedes. BMW introduced head protection airbags in 1997, 2 years before Lexus. Volvo introduced side airbags in 1994, 3 years before Lexus.

    Even now, many Lexus vehicles lack the most basic safety features found in competing cars. For example, you won't be able to find a single Lexus model that offers rear side airbags. Mercedes provides rear side airbags as standard equipment and BMW as optional. The GS430 and IS300 don't offer rear side head protection airbags; a standard feature on all Mercedes, BMW and Volvo vehicles. The 1989 Mercedes SL was the first convertible to offer and automatic roll bar. 16 years later the 2005 Lexus SC430 doesn't offer any such system, even though the BMW 3, Audi A4 and Volvo S70 convertibles do for half the price. The LS430 and ES330 the only Lexus vehicle that offers rear seatbelt ETD and force limiters; standard features across the entire model line with Mercedes and Volvo and optional on most BMW.

    Face it, Lexus has never been a leader in safety innovation nor have they shown any particular dedication to safety. Mercedes on the other hand, has been concerned with safety as its top priority since day 1.

    "Do any of its RECENT innovations even begin to compare with the importance of hybrid powertrains?"

    Well considering that Mercedes’ pioneering ESP system alone accounts for a 56% reduction in fatal single vehicle crashes... I would say that just this single recent innovation easily trumps the importance of hybrid powertrains.

    "Do you find it meaningless, in a competitive sense, that a brand has gone from nonexistent to number 1 right under MB's nose?"

    Is it remarkable that Toyota managed to sell so many "Lexus" vehicles since 1989? Yes it is. But to say Lexus is "number 1" is your obviously biased opinion. By "number 1" I assume you mean number 1 in sales? If so, don't forget to account for cost. Lexus sells its cars for less money than does Mercedes, thus it is only logical that Lexus would sell more cars. Kia sells more Spectras than Lexus sells more LS430s... that doesn't make the Spectra a better car; it's simply a function of cost.

    Lexus is like that fat kid in grade school who was always copying everyones homework because he was too lazy/stupid to do his own.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I'm afraid I've been over this time and time again on this board, all you'll get is one of six responses:

    1. These things don't matter because they aren't easily related to a JDP/CR survey.

    2. They don't work as advertised, which goes back to JDP/CR and the whole reliability sermon.

    3. Mercedes profits aren't what they should be.

    4. You may even get a post or two saying that Lexus has the equivalent things on their cars. Not!

    5. These things pale next to Mark Levinson sound systems and Nav systems. Who needs rollover protection on a SC430 when the nav/stereo are so great? This was actually suggested before.

    6. Ultimate survey'd reliability is safety.

    All that technical stuff is simply matterless unless JDP, CR, FT, or the WSJ gives it the ok.

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Seriously though looking at that list it is clear to me that European car makers focus more on the mechanical nuts and bolts tech innovations and a less on the interior/convenience features while the Japanese do without certain technical innovations, but concentrate more on things people can see and use more everyday, which is really why both camps have enjoy a wide following.

    Between Mercedes, Volvo, Renault, Saab, Audi and that other French company, the Europeans have always lead in safety.

    M
  • great post.
    let the Japanese finally spend some money on new technologies in the hybrid area. i won't be offended if the Germans copy it. turn about it fair play. the kicker is the Germans already make fantastic diesels that equal or surpass what is currently available in hybrid form.
  • sv7887sv7887 Posts: 351
    Hi all,
    More of the same nonsense on this board...Who cares who built it first? Are you implying this makes the LS430 unsafe? Offer some proof in the form of percent fatalities per crash..Last time I checked the LS430 gets the same crash ratings as any other Lux car. If the LS430 were less safe you can bet the press would jump all over it.

    Yet again this is a lame attempt to deny Lexus the credit it deserves. Also, Jaguar has done none of the thing you've outlined above..Does this make the XJ a lesser car??

    It's Japan's M.O. to let someone else spend the R&D money and then copy the design, and improving it in the process. The Japanese didn't even invent the television, yet Sony and Panasonic dominate the market. The pattern has been repeated in many other markets. Get over it already. Do you think anyone cares who built it first?? This is a real desperate attempt to slam Lexus..

    Seeing that I've worked in the Engineering industry for over 30 yrs I see this in practice all the time. Xerox did most of the ground work for MS-DOS, yet Bill Gates got all of the credit. Do you think Xerox would trade the "Prestige of being first" for the Billions Microsoft is worth today?! Give me a break!!!

    Profits always take precedence over prestige. If you don't believe that, then I hope you're not running a company. It's smart business for Lexus to let someone else take the risk. I've never even seen this point made in any car magazine. Sorry pal, if prestige was the sole factor in selling cars, no one would buy a Lexus.

    Lexus prices for less, because their COSTS are less. No one can deny the superiority of the TPS system. It's not Lexus' fault that the German marques can't match their efficiency. As for who is the better car, read the Car mags. I always see the LS430 either first or in the top three..Not bad for an "unsafe" car...

    SV
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,687
    These people don't wnat to understand the business side. They are purists and purists are always a tiny minority that doesn't understand the greater needs of the buying public. You can see it in sports if you look. The NFL and MLB know their market, hence more scoring, bigger crowds, big TV contracts and minting money. The NHL - run by purists who want to preserve hockey the way it is till it dies, hence no big revenue sources, little fan interest and nearly out of business. If there was a smart business person there they would have altered the rules in 1994 and be thriving now.

    Toyota spends $6bln a year on R&D but these folks think that they are doing nothing. What a joke. Meanwhile they have locked in tons of patents on hybrids and from past readings they are expected to be the leader in hydrogen fuel cells. No one on here seems to understand that the best capitalized company is always the leader in the areas of major change. Instead we have a nice bunch of penny-wise/pound foolish stuff to look at that is pages long. The smart business takes care of the major innovations and let's the niche player develop the small stuff. That is the way it is most of the time not just in cars but in everything.
  • sysweisyswei Posts: 1,804
    1. If you look at my original post, I never claimed that Lexus has out-innovated MB specifically in SAFETY since 1990. I did claim that, since 1990, Toyota/Lexus innovations IN TOTAL are at least as significant to the industry as MB innovations.

    2. For all of MB’s 120 years of safety innovations, does the S-class actually end up safer than the 15-year-young LS? Actually, not according to real-world data. Check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website:
    http://www.iihs.org/vehicle_ratings/ictl/ictl_lux.htm
    and you’ll find that the LS has 16% LESS personal injury losses than the S (46 vs 55 based on 100 equaling average injury losses…both are very safe, but the LS is clearly SAFER).

    "Mercedes on the other hand, has been concerned with safety as its top priority since day 1." Maybe so, but it seems Lexus has done a better job of it, based on real-world hard numbers.

    3. “Well considering that Mercedes’ pioneering ESP system alone accounts for a 56% reduction in fatal single vehicle crashes... I would say that just this single recent innovation easily trumps the importance of hybrid powertrains.” I have to disagree here. You seem to take fatalities as the measure of a carmaker’s worth to the world. What about fatalities due to pollution? Do you recognize that hybrid powertrains, once more widely adopted (including by the Germans, once they “copy” the technology), will save many many lives due to fuel savings and hence lower emissions?

    From the Washington Post: "The researchers examined the health effects of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by focusng on four cities: New York City, Mexico City, Santiago in Chile and Sao Paulo in Brazil. They found that using readily available technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would also cut emissions of pollutants, because both are released when fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are burned. And those reductions would avoid 64,000 premature deaths, 65,000 cases of chronic bronchitis and 37 million person-days of restricted activity IN JUST THOSE FOUR CITIES over the next 19 years."

    The quote isn't particular to hybrids and is only intended to show that reducing pollution saves lives just as surely as incremental airbags. Exactly how many lives might be saved by hybrid technology over the next couple of decades I don't know, and don't have the time to try to calculate.

    Now I know that someone is going to mention diesels and my response is, diesels have been in cars for almost 70 years, they aren't exactly a recent innovation.

    4. By "number 1" yes I did mean U.S. vehicle sales. To your point that "Lexus sells its cars for less money than does Mercedes, thus it is only logical that Lexus would sell more cars." I would respond:

    a. MB's U.S. product line actually starts LOWER in price than does Lexus'. If you eliminate all of MB's models at price points higher than Lexus' highest price point, Lexus still outsells MB in the U.S., only by a wider margin. MB product is available in the entire Lexus pricerange, and then some. Why can't MB outsell Lexus if price is the barrier?

    b. Some value needs to be accorded MB's higher prestige. If a Timex watch were physically IDENTICAL to a Rolex, except for the brand name, don't you think Rolex could still price somewhat higher, but sell the same number of units as the physically same but lower-prestige Timex?

    Since MB has more "content" in the form of prestige, it follows that consumers should be willing to pay a little more but still buy it in the same numbers as Lexus. But they don't.
  • sv7887sv7887 Posts: 351
    Syswei,
    Interesting Post..I looked over those numbers and found something quite entertaining. It seems all of the high end cars were stolen quite frequently. Don't you think for the price we all pay they could build a better security system?

    Now that I think of it, it's likely those who steal these cars are high end professional car thieves. I wonder if there is a low tech solution to all of this..

    SV
  • Jovialanus:

    It is true..Lexus takes innovations from Mercedes and Volvo and others...They work with them to make them better and more reliable BEFORE they put them in their car....

    What is the value of a safety feature if you don't know for certain that it will work when you need it...Mercedes rushes their innovations into production, Lexus perfects them first...I like the Lexus approach..You will say you like the Mercedes approach...Different strokes.

    In a lexus you know it will work.
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,687
    They stole Schrempps $400K armored S-class in broad daylight. It seems all the electronics failed on it. It was another laughingstock story that made the presses a month or so ago.
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Every now and then MB fans get stuck on someone's list of MB technical accomplishments.

    It's always fun to find out if they are really true. Sometimes, it's interesting to go to the US Patent Office to verify or invalidate some claims.

    However, just using Google helps too.

    So, type in "Who invented air bags" and here's what you get from the about dot com website. They paint a different picture of the first item in the list above:

    "General Motors tested air bags on the 1973 model Chevrolet that were only sold for government use. GM later did offer an option to the public of driver side airbags in full-sized Oldsmobile's and Buick's in 1975 and 1976, Cadillac's were available with driver and passenger air bags during those same years. Air bags were offered once again as an option on the 1984 Ford Tempo. By 1988, Chrysler became the first company to offer air bag restraint systems as standard equipment. In 1994, TRW began production of the first gas-inflated air bag.

    Looks like to me, that MB was about a decade later than Cadillac. The American Allen Breek is generally considered the inventor of the modern automotive air bag, including those that 'deflate' as the bag is used to absorb energy from a passenger.

    One down, more to go.
  • Merc.

    The fact of the matter is as the Baby Boomers continue to age...They will want more Comfort in their cars...Good bye Hard ride and hard cornering. The ES is ideal for this population..That is why This Population continues to buy it in increasing numbers.

    It seems to me that based on your inside knowledge...Mercedes is pointed at the wrong market..Or has given up trying to compete against Lexus and is shifting it's sights to BMW and Audi and VW?
  • Merc:

    The Japanese makers do not do without Technical innovations....They simply make them better after Mercedes creates them so they are sure they work before they put them in their cars...

    Not fair you may say...But it is good business...
  • sv7887sv7887 Posts: 351
    Hi all,
    Before we descend into yet another Lexus vs Germany bashing session....Has anyone come out with a really effective security solution for our cars? I looked at my insurance bill and my car is classified as a high theft risk..Obviously, despite the factory alarm system, the car is stolen alot..Has anyone come up with unique ways to safeguard the car?

    I had my wife's Camry fitted with a simple $50 kill switch hidden near the gas pedal. I don't think a thief would want to bother fumbling around for too long. It's simple yet effective, especially if placed where a thief would never guess..

    SV
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    "The Japanese makers do not do without Technical innovations....They simply make them better after Mercedes creates them so they are sure they work before they put them in their cars..."

    If anyone here can give one example of this I'll be more than happy to read about it. Just one example in like 2 years of hearing this claim would be nice.

    I honestly would like to read about how any of these things that MB/Volvo/BMW brought to the market and how they didn't work, and then Toyota made them work. Does this claim include airbags, abs, esp or anything else on the list given earlier? Another very old claim with not one shredd of proof ever given.

    syswei,

    Hybrids save lives? Fatalities due to polution? I'm surprised at that notion. Sounds awfully desperate to me. Projected lives saved vs. those at least thought to already to be saved? Why just estimate how many cars are on the road with airbags and count all those being as having their lives saved too?

    It seems you and Ljflx just cannot give credit where credit is due. Mercedes, Volvo, GM, BMW and others did all the work so your Lexus would be a safe vehicle. Yet these innovations don't mean anything but in the same sentence hybrids and their associated patents are supposed to mean something? One group of innovators and innovations don't mean anything because Toyota didn't do it? Yet we're supposed to hold Toyota is such esteem because they have finally found something they can do original work on, hybrids?

    Sound like a double standard to me.

    Footie,

    I knew you were going to catch that about the airbags. My list of innovators would definitely include GM too, specifically Cadillac. GM was first with an airbag, but Mercedes and Chryler brought them to market before GM, but you are correct GM had the idea first. The GM cars with airbags in the late seventies were never sold the public.

    M
  • sysweisyswei Posts: 1,804
    There is no double standard on my end. I do recognize that MB has innovated. I'm just saying that Toyota/Lexus have too, something that some German car fans don't seem to credit.

    The score just isn't MB 1, Lexus 0 when it comes to innovation.
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