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High End Luxury Cars

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  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,665
    Nope - you are twisting facts here. As early as 2002 I said MB would go red in profits in a few years (something you couldn't believe at the time plus you argued that the quality/reliability issue was way overstated) and I said in 10 years the luxury playing field would be re-oriented. That script is playing out to the letter right now. Merc - my business success in life is being able to read the tea leaves on a going forward basis and I get paid a lot of money by people for my advice. The mistake almost everyone always makes is looking at the past and thinking heritage will win out. In a rapidly changing technological world - heritage can't win.

    MB is hardly standing pat. They have more model choices than ever, a wide fleet, engine choices galore, a greater cost structure than ever to support all that (and one that needs to seriously be reigned in) and yet it's not getting them anywhere. They need to add more and more cars to hold sales where they are or have modest 1-2% increases or recently to keep from slipping - in an expanding market no less. All that means is that their share keeps slipping and their costs keep rising. They've also tried to reach into the younger and much more fickle customer base and that customer base is much more prone to move onto the next greatest thing rather than stay loyal and easily be retained. I see mistakes almost everywhere I look when I view MB's moves the last 10 years.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    While we’re on the subject of jobs, I’m wondering what happened to Monday Mornings with Merc. Heavens, it’s Wednesday morning and Merc is coming alive… he’s ALIVE! Merc, you are throwing my whole daily routine out of whack, kind of like when there is a solar eclipse and the birds go nuts. What’s with it, man! I guess I’ll have to adapt.

    Too funny. It has been a while since the usual debate hasn't it?

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Well Lenn I'm sorry, but all of that really doesn't matter to the average person, again to take nothing away from your business smarts. However you have been predicting doom and gloom for Mercedes for quite a while now and while your predictions about their profits may have been right on the money, the predictions you and another departed member gave about sales/image and what not haven't come true. First it was 2 years and now its 5 more. Oh and for the record I never argued about whether or not Mercedes would lose money or at least I don't remember arging that specific point. My point of debate was with you predicting that MB would be finished imagewise and their sales would all of a sudden evaporate. That isn't happening.

    Lexus already has a seat at the table with Mercedes and BMW but I think Mercedes will remain in the lead seat for several reasons.

    Firstly Lexus doesn't have the range of cars to fully compete with Mercedes (or BMW) when it comes to the image and status race. They don't have the niche models, performance models or sheer diverse number of offerings to topple Mercedes or BMW, IMO. I don't see Toyota breaking Lexus out into so many niche models like Mercedes or BMW either.

    I mean Mercedes has had the worst reliabilty/quality rankings for more than a few years now and yet they've been able to maintain their position by diverting attention away from that via more models and mega hp. The time for Lexus to take Mercedes' spot is now, not in the next five years. I expect Mercedes to have removed the reliability problem by then and if they manage that Lexus had better have something truly mind-blowing in terms of style/performance and sheer appeal to compete with. One hybrid, no matter how fabulous it will be and a V10 sports cars won't just instantly give Lexus the top spot. For Lexus to get the top spot Mercedes would have stand still in several areas while at the same time failing to improve quality/reliability. They've already gotten rid of the complaints about build quality being on the cheap side with cars like the CLS, SLK and new S. It is just a matter of time before they show at least some improvements in reliability too. Lexus has wiped the matt with Mercedes in those areas for years now and yet people still don't consider Lexus #1 that is why I say it will take something special, not just surveys or mega-hybrid sedan.

    Oh, and this needs to be global, not just in the U.S. for Mercedes-Benz to be soundly surpassed and that is going to take a lot longer than Lexus would like considering tha in Europe and in even in their own homeland they aren't even major players yet.

    M
  • sv7887sv7887 Posts: 351
    ljflx,
    I agree with you for the most part. It is undeniable that MB is having it's share of problems. At least Dieter Zetsche their new CEO understands that being complacent is not a long term strategy. He argued that MB needs to be more like the Japanese and adopt more efficient ways of production. There is no doubt they need to make changes to generate the synergies that the Chrysler merger was supposed to create. The last thing they want to do is become like GM with 20 different engine and drivetrain combinations.

    Part of it is a cost issue. Back in the pre-Lexus era, Mercedes could charge what they wanted to. You could argue the Engineers built the car and the accounts merely marked it up accordingly. That isn't the case anymore. In order to compete they had no choice but to try and match Lexus. You know better than anyone the power of Toyota's vast resources and their efficiency. Mercedes has to undergo a structural change if they wish to regain their dominance of past years.

    However, their brand is still the strongest out there. This isn't an IBM or even Pan AM sort of thing where people made their decision on costs. The luxury car market does not cater to the "Rational" crowd. If we, the HELM, owners where purely rational, then we would all drive Toyota Camrys. I'm hardly rational in my car buying habits, I've got a S430, a LS400, and a Toyota Corolla.

    All of these cars are supposed to tickle our emotions. They cater to a crowd that really isn't that price sensitive. When you make >200K you aren't as price sensitive as that young teacher who is buying a Corolla. No doubt, the "more rational" crowd will opt for the LS430 given the advantage the car has objectively. I was one of those people, having owned Lexus LS400/430 for over 12 yrs. In the end, the "Emotion, Style, Safety, and Performace" of the S Class provided me a reason to make a change. No doubt my very bad experiences with Lexus Customer Service was the final push.

    But consider Europe and the rest of the world. They demand high performance machines that can cruise at >120 MPH. Mercedes still builds that kind of car. They still built cars that turn heads and set the car for style. I had never seen anything like the CLS 500 before. It truly is all about style, something the SC430 cannot even begin to compete with.

    Reliability is a problem, there is no doubt. But they still are selling well. The S550 is selling like crazy. If Lexus were to encounter reliabilty issues, they'd be in serious trouble, moreso than Mercedes. Lexus is built around Quality and a slide in that area would be disasterous for them.

    Mercedes is built around much more than that. They continue to lead the industry in innovation, safety, style, and of course image. After all, a Mercedes Benz is still a Mercedes Benz. That kind of Brand can weather a short term drop in quality. If they started to build poor performing and boring looking cars, I'd argue that would be more of a threat.

    Look no further than Skoda if you want a real world example of something like this. Prior to the VW takeover, they were the laughing-stock of the world. I personally remember laughing at one while I was in the UK some 12 yrs ago. Now, they are the ones laughing at us. Skoda is well regarded these days.

    I do think MB's problems will take time to resolve. But they aren't the first auto company to face problems. Look no further than Chrysler both in the late 1970's and post Daimler Merger. Look at Cadilliac, once derided as the Florida crowd car, they are attracting young buyers in droves. Even the new Buick Lucerne is selling like crazy.

    It can be done. The question is whether Dieter Zetsche will have the mandate to make the changes Mercedes needs.

    -Sam
  • drfilldrfill Posts: 2,484
    Boy, you guys can't get to sleep, can you?

    As my last post illustrated, or so I thought, you can be a "winner" many ways.

    You kind of sidestepped the question: Are Toyota Camry, Cadillac Escalade, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Ford Exploder, etc., "losers"?

    If you sell big, but don't get critical acclaim, are you a "loser"?

    XLR did neither, so I feel confident that the shoe fits.

    With regards to replacing Mercedes in the image pantheon (Lexus seems disinterested in competing with BMW), anyone who thinks they can do that in just 15 years is fooling themselves. I certainly never forcast that!

    And yes, until Lexus prices their cars as high as Mercedes, or Mercedes repositions themselves to compete with Lexus, and at that point, Lexus is still the preferred choice, Mercedes is still the King of the Hill.

    Where was Toyota Camry 20 years ago? Where is it today? I have every confidence that Lexus has a similar plan, and will reach whatever lofty goals they have set. But they are never in a hurry. It may take 30 years, but they'll climb that mountain!

    At the same point, just because Lexus offers a better value, like the Lexus LS, doesn't mean it is a lesser car than a S-Class, for example.

    This topic couldn't be more subjective or less tangible.

    Mercedes will not become Jaguar, at least not anytime soon.

    Lexus really can't do anything more than what they're doing. The only question is how far can they go? Same with Toyota.

    Asking Toyota/Lexus to, in essence, replace GM/Ford/Daimler-Chrysler, as they car/SUV/luxury marque of choice, is based upon potential. Toyota has that much potential. NO OTHER COMPANY DOES!

    In that regard, such a incredible expectation ,akes Toyota a victim of it's own success. Now if they don't replace Mercedes or if Tundra doesn't sell 300k units next year, if Camry doesn't go to 5000k units a year, or if Prius stops selling 100-125k units, then it's "What's wrong with Toyota?".

    Many luxury car shoppers, MANY, wouldn't consider a Mercedes, only a Lexus.

    At 300k sales a year, and still climbing 10% a year, I think it is time to start raising prices, if only to prevent diluting the brand through excessive volume. That's not easy, but it maybe time for Lexus to leave it's comfort zone, give up a couple of sales crowns, and reposition themselves directly against Mercedes, in some classes.

    DrFill
  • lexusguylexusguy Posts: 6,419
    I think Lexus will rapidly expand their range by the end of the decade. They'll have a new small SUV, an IS coupe, convertible, and possibly an IS500, along with a new SC, and new SUVs based around the Tundra. I dont think that Lexus will try to come up with something like an AMG division, as it just doesnt make sense for their cars other than the IS to have a million horsepower.

    For Infiniti though, a performance division would be a brilliant idea, as it would show that the G and M really can go head to head with Benz and BMW. I cant imagine it would be difficult to implement, simply have the Nismo guys work over the FM platform, and then install the motor from the GT-R, and you'd have an "M"M.
  • patpat Posts: 10,421
    Hi drfill. The topic of this discussion really doesn't include all those models you mention.
  • houdini1houdini1 Kansas City areaPosts: 5,863
    I recently got a service bulletin on my LX 470. Of all things someone, in their wisdom, decided the day time running lights were a tad too bright. I took it in this morning for the regular scheduled oil change/tire rotation and also to take care of the running lights.

    When I picked it up a couple of hours later all the work had been done and they said, "Oh, by the way, for your inconvenience, we topped off your gas tank". Well the tank had been on empty so this cost them over 50 bucks. Do you think I will keep buying these cars???

    2013 LX 570 2010 LS 460 2002 Tacoma 4x4

  • rayngrayng Posts: 70
    IMO, the SC430 is not a gt car. It's a comfortable hardtop for
    cruising not racing. I think it's a nice car for going to the opera or taking the wife out to a nice anniversary dinner. Is it "loser"? It depends on your perception and metric. I know several friends who's dream car is the sc430. Although I don't care for it nor would I ever own one, I would admit it is a nice car and fully fulfills its purpose as a luxury two door cruiser like the sc300/400.

    The XLR is a great car too, and one I'd buy over the sc430 if my wife would let me. It's like having a luxury 'vette.

    The Lexus strategy of outselling other car-makers is simply the business objective of any successful company: to outsell your competitors. I agree with most in this group that performance and handling is lacking in most Lexus cars compared to its German rivals. However, Lexus does well in other areas such as luxury, value, and service. Perhaps it's Toyota's strategy to differentiate itself in the marketplace? Perhaps Lexus is successfully selling cars that are high on luxury with a bit of performance and fun thrown in? Whatever it's doing, I have to admire its success and profitability.

    I'm not sure nitpicking one's metrics makes the point for the purpose of advancing the discussion of this group. I think those who engage in disparaging others embarrasses and discredits himself.
  • ljflxljflx Posts: 4,665
    Life is unfair. She was final three material and easily one of the best voices in the group. Bucky, Taylor or Elliot should have been bottom three off last nights performances. If Bucky survives Queen it will be amazing.

    The Fusion commercial was great.
  • drfilldrfill Posts: 2,484
    Mandisa is obviously a good singer, is worth looking at, and even has a cool name, without being pretentious.

    Reason #32 why I don't watch.

    You know, I kinda thought Acura was on a roll, with a new MDX coming out soon, the TL a big hit, and the TSX winning awards, and a sexy Sports 4 concept in the works.

    But the RL proved that Acura will impose their own glass ceiling. Instead of giving the people what they want, they just dumped as much tech as they could in.

    And where would the TL go next, with only 30 less HP, and a redesign due in 2 years?

    And this CR-V sized SUV doesn't work for me either. Probably under $30k. Oh, well. Let's concentrate on "High-End" luxury!

    I guess Infiniti is closing in on the same problem (their best car is the entry-level car). But they are handling it better.

    The M, now that's hard on the eyes!

    DrFill
  • lexusguylexusguy Posts: 6,419
    What Acura has been doing since the beginning is providing simple, high quality, one size fits all cars with "what a bargain!" prices. Where Acura failed the RL is its $49K MSRP. Its not a bargain. Its a reasonably competitive car at a reasonably competitive price, but thats not what the Acura brand is about. Nobody is going to pay Lexus money for an Acura.

    "I guess Infiniti is closing in on the same problem (their best car is the entry-level car). But they are handling it better."

    Ok, that doesnt make any sense. It implies first of all that Acura's best car is the RSX? Acura's best car is the TL, which slots above the RSX and TSX, firmly in the middle of the line up.

    Infiniti's best car is the M, hands down, no contest. You may not like the looks, but thats simply your opinion, and doesnt have anything to do with how good the car itself is. The G35 is a very good car, but it has no chance of beating the new 3 series in any comparison test, and I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure it lost in most (if not all) cases to the old 3 series. The M, on the other hand, trounced the Germans at just about every turn. It also finally managed to grab 3rd place in sales from Lexus last month. Now thats what I would call their best car.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Absolutely brillant post Sam!

    How is the S430?

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    You kind of sidestepped the question: Are Toyota Camry, Cadillac Escalade, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Ford Exploder, etc., "losers"?

    These cars, minus the Cadillac aren't luxury vehicles and the standard (to me) is somewhat different, they're about sales more so than a 60K Lexus. The previous Cadillac Escalade was a loser IMO. It sold well, but that was about all it did. It drove like crap, and had an interior to die about, not for.

    When it comes to luxury vehicle I think sales are important, but they aren't as important to what the car brings to the market, which makes a car like the LS a winner, but the SC430 a loser IMO. It brings nothing to its market segment other than sales and typcial Lexus traits. Luxury cars are about design and performance moreso than a Camry or Explorer. Different market brief.

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    We'll see what they do. What happened to the HPX? Did the R-Class' slow start make them re-think that one?

    I must say I'm sort of confused about Lexus having a RX350 and a RX400h with bascially the same power. Ditto about the GS450h and upcoming GS460 which will have way more power at 380hp. I though the hybrids were supposed to be the AMG/M chasers according to some?

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    The only problem is that according to everyone I've ever heard compare the SC430 to the old SC400/300 says the original SC400 was more fun to drive. I've driven the SC400, but never the SC430.

    From your description about the SC430, which is correct IMO, the only advantage the SC430 has is being a convertible. Mercedes' SL/CLK droptops are cruisers too for the most part, but they still provide an actual driving experience along with all the usual luxury sedan touches. Sure the SC430 is a nice car, but I mean in that category "nice" doesn't cut it IMO. It doesn't bring anything different to the table that a typical Lexus sedan can't.

    Not nitpicking anyone's "metrics" just pointing out how one is used to support this car one min and isn't discussed in the next about a different car. Switching the "metric" depending on the car (when we're talking about all luxury cars) is a little double standardish IMO. This was a shot at the usual sales=best vs. LS430 wins all comparos=best theories.

    M
  • drfilldrfill Posts: 2,484
    Maybe the term "Loser" causes this confusion and greyish area.

    I would call that term rather severe, given we're dealing with relatively successful cars, like Escalade and SC430. Maybe instead of calling them "losers", which is probably inaccurate, maybe some people mean "undesirable"?

    A lot of people might condiser the A8 "desirable". But is it a "Winner"? People aren't really buying it. It sell 5k a year? I like it a lot, but calling a car like that a "Winner" takes some thought. If it were really a "Winner", wouldn't it sell more?

    Escalades and Sc430s may not be "desirable" to you and others, but they are to many, enough people to make them "winners", at least to owners and their respective makers.

    I'm not a fan of cars like CLK or ES330/350, but I can't call them "Losers", can I? They are too popular to be "Losers". Doesn't that make sense?

    The way I see it, in the luxury game, if you can sell enough so that field isn't lapping you, you are "winning" sales, and returning your maker a profit. You can fund a redesign, based on some reasonable market acceptance. Cars like Pheaton and XLR are almost assured of being nothing more than a luxury footnote.

    Regarding the SC430, having sat in the SLK, SL, and SC430, but not the XLR, bringing Lexus values and traits to this convertible class is exactly what makes an SC430 valuable, or a "winner". You seem to discount that "Lexus traits" are HIGHLY DESIRABLE to thousands of buyers.

    Lets say the SL is more enjoyable to drive, and is better looking. These are subjective standards, and with similar power (Until recently), and a $25k higher price tag, an SC430 becomes a smart buy!

    You will disagree, but I find the SC interior to be noticably more opulent than either the SLK or SL. The SLK is quite small, and I barely fit inside. The SL is a little roomier than the Lexus, and has a nice interior, but Lexus has clearly laid the lux on thick compared to the understated SL interior.

    SC = luxury felt

    SL = luxury driven

    Lexus nailed the pricing, and made the XLR seem like a rough draft, for an extra $10k, in comparison. It is a good value compared to the SLK, due to engine and chassis size, and much more luxury inside.

    Bear in mind, the SC430 IS NOT MY KIND OF CAR! I wouldn't buy one! But I see value and luxury in it. Cadillac hasn't earned the right to sell premium convertibles, much less for more than Lexus. And competing with legendary cars like XK and SL for sales, and holding it's own, unlike the XLR, should bring respect, if not admiration from detractors.

    We will not see another XLR, but a "L-Finesse" designed SC460 for 2008 will prove the line has plenty of merit, and a bright future.

    DrFill
  • benzsterbenzster Posts: 152
    And you should if service is YOUR top priority.
    IMO and I want to know if others support this...

    If you ask a Lexus owner about their "car" experience, the answer undoubtedly will involve service after the sale.
    If you ask a BMW owner you will hear drivability and performance.
    If you ask a MB owner, they will respond with innovation.
    I could add to this for different categories i.e. M power, AMG, SUV w.e.
    This is over simplified but what are others opinions? What pulls you to a brand? I am an emotional buyer. I would buy a Mini or any Porsche on surface value. I know our Porsche dealer sucks but it would not matter one bit. Is a Porsche reliable... who cares it is a Porsche BABY!
  • docnukemdocnukem Posts: 485
    If you ask a MB owner, they will respond with innovation

    Interesting. I am not an MB owner, but as an outsider looking in, I would have thought style, prestige, and (in the past) reliability (assuming we are not talking AMG, which would have other criteria).

    Are there really that many people who feel MB is the innovator of the luxury brands?
  • designmandesignman Posts: 2,129
    It [SC] is a good value compared to the SLK, due to engine and chassis size, and much more luxury inside.

    Ba ding, boing #*@?!! ring a ling bling… that one sure trips my circuit breakers.

    To each his own, and yes, the SC is no sales loser, but if a car is going to have two seats, it really needs an iota of performance. In March 2005 R&T did a sports car comparo and the SLK came in last but very close to the 350Z, Z4 and even the Viper (which is on another planet) however it still garnered considerable respect ESPECIALLY with regard to the engine. Too bad the SC didn’t have a stick in order to get into the comparo. Then you’d really see what a loser it is. As far as I’m concerned, the SLK (all versions) is the bargain Mercedes. This will probably set off other circuit breakers, but I'm thinking that perhaps the T-Bird is more of a "bargain" than the SC.
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