Mr. B. Lorenz
General Manager Services
Mercedes Benz
Daimler-Chrysler UK Limited
Tongwell
Milton Keynes
MK15 8BA 

Re: ML320
Chassis Number: 1631542A051055
Registration Number: S389DFB

07 May 2000

Dear Mr. Lorenz,

Some time ago you issued an urgent recall notice regarding the seat belt buckles of the ML320 series. As I am no longer the owner of the car, I was tempted to ignore the notice, save myself some time and wish the poor sod who bought the vehicle "good luck".

However, I feel that you and senior management in Germany should be made aware why I disposed of the expensive motorcar. It most certainly was not because of some suspect seat buckles.

In my opinion the ML320 range should have been recalled the moment they fell off the US production line. Here follows an account of my 12 months Mercedes Benz experience during which I covered a mere 2,100 miles.

  1. The fitted alarm, a disaster supreme: sirens and lights went off frequently when operating the remote control. I was told by your local experts that the security code was extremely long and sophisticated and it required pressing the button for at least one second. Horse-feathers: my present Range Rover’s code is just as long, it can even dead-lock the doors and has not once produced a false alarm. The alarm also went off for no reason at all whilst driving down the High Street in Cheltenham – a rather embarrassing experience in a vehicle of such calibre. On another occasion, the interior lights illuminated during travel and without an obvious reason, though when reaching home and opening the driver’s door, all hell broke loose. I was unable to shut the alarm off, much to the amusement of the neighbourhood. Your local dealer, County Garages of Cheltenham, was called out on countless occasions and there will be a record of the vehicle’s history on file.

  2. Right from the first day the rear seat unit produced an irritating rattle. County Garages of Cheltenham tried over several days to find a remedy, but without much success, yet they still returned the vehicle to me. Since my local chemist (US English: drug store) did not run a special promotion on ear-plugs, I returned the car to your dealer and was told that a new rear seat assembly would be required. Whether this was fitted or not, a week later the irritating noise was less obvious but still noticeable to an extent that would have made a Lada salesman blush.

  3. I made as little use of the vehicle as possible - the alarm was a bit of a deterrent – but I was slightly stumped when one day the battery failed to start the car. County Motors did their bit again, I was given further expert opinion that the sophisticated electronics needed regular driving and 10 days rest was bad for the battery. I pointed out that I was not prepared to lug around a 10 kg battery every time I left the Merc at an airport for the duration of a short business trip. My fears of having to charge up the battery in foreign hotel rooms were unfounded, the battery was found to have two faulty cells. A replacement rectified the not too small inconvenience.

  4. Occasionally it rains in the United Kingdom. Imagine my surprise when one day I opened the passenger door and found ½ centimetre (US conversion: nearly 1/4 inch) of water on the floor sill. The same water level could be found in the off-side rear compartment and further back into the load area. This amazing discovery was followed by another invigorating  week for the ML320 at County Motors of Cheltenham. Just as well I have two reliable cars by different manufacturers at my disposal.

  5. By this time, and I trust you will not be offended by the thought, I had decided to sell the car. Three expensive adverts in the Sunday Times resulted in only one luke-warm enquiry and no sale, though, out of the blue a local person showed some interest in the pile of junk. Desperate to make a sale, I washed the car and even brushed out the immaculate interior. That was when I found a piece of plastic on the driver’s floor. I picked it up and viewed it in amazement: it was the most crudely crafted piece of plastic I have ever come across – an accelerator pedal. It brought tears to my eyes to realise what they had done to "Der gute Stern auf allen Strassen". Even found the plastic (yes, plastic!!) coupling to fix the pedal to the metal – now here is a reason for recall if you ever needed one! How about a bit of off-roading in Sloane Square (London, U.K.) with the pedal falling off?

    By the way, the local interest in the vehicle ended in no sale.

  6. The American style handbrake or "parking brake" indicates clearly that nobody had ever envisaged the ML320 to be used off-road with perhaps the exception of a Tesco’s (Britan's leading supermarket) mother- and-child-only parking bay. I certainly would be unhappy to have to make use of such a contraption on the snow covered roads of the Italian Dolomites.

  7. The leather seats were designed for Sudanese brass monkeys or Americans. They gave no hold and were by far the most uncomfortable seats I have experienced outside the cathedral of the Holy Virgin in Galway (Republic of Ireland).

  8. There is also the extreme use of cheap plastic in a vehicle of such a renowned past: the little handle which opens the bonnet will most likely not last for the third oil-change, the pitiful rear ashtrays (though I do not smoke) would never meet the stringent quality requirements of a give-away in a cornflakes box, the cupholders were surely designed by a brainless imbecile.

  9. In a last attempt to impress my clients with a Mercedes and in order to curtail my losses to a minimum, I contacted the sales director of County Motors, Mr. Ian Morrison and checked out the latest ML320 series which by now had been improved and built by Austrians. Mr. Morrison was fully aware of the history of my vehicle and expressed his sympathy with words to the effect " the quality one expects of owning a Mercedes Benz" and that he would contact me. That was during December 1999. Last century! Last words of wisdom!

My patience came to an end and I have since bought a Range Rover, the eighth in my ownership and a vehicle which gives me the confidence to attempt to leave the periphery of Cheltenham. Though I miss the Bose hi-fi unit of the ML320….

I thought you might be interested in my humble opinion of the pile of junk which has lost me more than £ 10,000 ( $ 14,500) in such a short time of ownership and just over 2,100 miles. It is my hope that somebody at Mercedes Benz will remember how the word "quality" was spelled just a few years ago. It might also be prudent to clarify the expression "off-road" to your customers as in the case of the ML320 it is more likely to entail the hospitality and bad coffee at one of your many dealerships.

Yours sincerely,

Edmund Nägele,
FRPS

Edmund Nägele is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain