2008 Mercedes-Benz C300: Unimpressive Buying Experience
December 10, 2007
When I'm shopping for an Edmunds car I like to use our Dealer Locator feature. I fill out the request for a free quote and fire them off to local dealers. I always list my cell phone number on the leads form and usually don't answer the opening salvo of calls. In this case, I got four calls from dealerships within four hours. Most of the messages assured me they had the car (or could get it -- beware the "dealer trade").
The sales people would love to have you physically come down to the dealership so they can sweat you in a little sales office and squeeze extra money from you. But if you maintain your distance and work the deal on the phone and email you can usually get what you want in less time, for less hassle and for less money. But old habits die hard. One internet sales woman, with an authoritative British accent, lectured me on the necessity to test drive their car and she could then "find out what I was trying to accomplish." I found this mildly insulting since I already knew what I was "trying to accomplilsh" and felt I was, in fact, accomplishing it.
What made the C300 hard to shop for was that we wanted an odd combination of options: the multimedia package (very popular) and the 18 inch AMG wheels. Whenever I found a car with the multimedia package it didn't have the wheels and vice versa. Then, when I found both, it was a color we didn't want. Finally, Kim Tan, internet saleswoman from Mercedes-Benz of South Bay, in Torrance, CA, assured me she would trade with another dealer and have the car that night for me to pick it up. Guess what? The trade fell through and the car never arrived.
Eventually, Kim got a new shipment of C300s and one matched our needs. She matched our TMV price and I agreed to buy the car for $39,450 plus taxes and fees. I was dropped off at the dealership to sign the contract and pickup the car. The dealership had agreed to take a company check but when I arrived in person they hesitated. I had to wait with no explanation for an extended period before a sales manager appeared, apologized and the deal went through.
Kim did an excellent job explaining the car's features. But on balance, I was not impressed with the Mercedes salespeople I dealt with at South Bay and the other local dealerships. There was an irritating mixture of arrogance and obsequiousness in their attitudes.
Update: the price for the popular 2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class is dropping. Consumers seem to really like the redesigned Mercedes but even with the warm reception, dealers located in areas that have a lot of competition are already selling it for close to invoice.
Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @3,400 miles