: How come German car makers?



orconn
02-20-11, 02:27 PM
How come German car makers like Mercedes and VW/Audi can design and build cars that appear to be of high quality of design and construction and yet don't seem to be able to equip their cars with electrical components (or mechanical ones for that matter) that stand up to the rigors of American usage? Why for more than sixty years have reliable electrical components been the Achilles heal of European cars?

orconn
02-20-11, 02:42 PM
oops, posted this in the wrong section. Moderator please move to Community Lounge. Thanks

96Fleetwood
02-20-11, 02:50 PM
Do you have a specific example you can mention?

My Father's 2006 performance package DTS and 2007 Escalade had far more electrical issues than any of the German vehicles (S600, 760Li, S500) they owned. Their current 2008 Mercedes S63 has been pretty reliable after 28K miles.


... and my Grandfather still has the Mercedes 280E he bought new in 1978. Running strong (original motor) with 320K.:thumbsup:

dkozloski
02-20-11, 07:51 PM
The answer is that the Germans feel there is no point in using a simple mechanism if a complicated one will do the job.

orconn
02-21-11, 08:06 PM
Gee, I am glad your folks have had such a good experience with their Mercedes. I can say that I have never had any problems with the Jaguars that I have owned, most of which were purchased new, but from what I hear from a lot of other Jag owners I am unusual in not experiencing problems. From having lived among Mercedes-Benz owners for over fifty years I can tell you that I do not remember a singe decade when Mercedes didn't have electrical problems. In the seventies the 450SE and SLs gave their owners problems that were so severe that the cars had to be towed to the agencies. Again in the eighties both S Class and E class cars again were plagued with electrical problems. In the nineties the C class cars as well as the S and E class cars were afflicted.

In the new millennium, while my CLK was generally problem free, the Mercedes mechanics I talked to kept mentioning that the cars had even more problems than previous models. A jaunt over to the Mercedes forum confirms that among other problems, electrical problems have plagued Mercedes owners for many decades.

Mercedes is not unique, among European auto makers to have problems with electrical components. Audi and VW, not to mention Peugeot and Fiat have certainly had their problems with electrical component failures. When Lamborghini began production back in the 1960's they acquired there various components from around Europe and even the United States. When it came to electrical components the early Limbo models relied on American electrical components and the 350 and 400 engined cars won a deserved reputation for excellent reliability. When Lee Iaccoca was thinking of adding Alfa Romeo to Chrysler's scuderia he had Chrysler engineers go through the 164 replacing electrical components with U.S. sourced components before introducing it to the American Market with a 4 year 48,000 bumper to bumper warranty ( the first warranty of this duration to be offered in the U.S.).

Electrical components have always been a weak point with European cars and Mercedes was not exception.

Jesda
02-21-11, 09:42 PM
Just thought I'd mention a few of the Crossfire's issues:
No power locks
No alarm
Bad wipers
Bad wire harness

Engineered by Germans. Made in Germany with German parts and German labor in a German factory managed and owned and operated by Germans.

A hoot to drive. Glad its gone.


The Volvo had a bizarre electrical system where the airbag was routed through the stereo.

The Saab, after 20 years, has only needed a starter and ignition switch.


Never had an issue with any BMWs, however.

I~LUV~Caddys8792
02-21-11, 09:58 PM
Yeah, come to think of it, I had a lot of weird electrical issues with the S320, which was designed and built in Germany by Germans.
When it was damp out, the radio wouldn't work at all, but rather it would say "Phone not found" on the screen, which would have made sense if it had the optional factory installed cell phone in the console....it did not. Also, when it was damp, the power antenna wouldn't rise at all. And when it got below about 30*, the mode door in the HVAC wouldn't work at all....and if you hit the throttle, it would default to defrost position....but when it got above freezing, it worked perfect. That made no sense at all and the dealer couldn't figure it out.

Again, like Jesda and the Crossfire...it was fun while it lasted, but I'm glad someone else has it now.

ben.gators
02-21-11, 10:05 PM
The answer is that the Germans feel there is no point in using a simple mechanism if a complicated one will do the job.

Here it is.... This is one of the main reasons.

Here is one of my previous posts in another thread. It is about Porsche and how some complications in design result in problems instead of efficiency and performance....

I have a friend who purchased a Porsche Boxster as his after retirement car. One day he came late to a meeting and said his car's battery was dead since he left the key on ignition for couple of days. And he continued his speech with an smile on his face: my car is not like the normal cars that you have seen, some special procedure needs to be followed if the battery dies. The battery compartment door is electrical and if battery dies you can not access the battery anymore! Someone should growl underneath with a portable battery, and connect the portable battery somewhere to open the electrical door of battery compartment, and then replace the battery!
The next day I saw him with a 600-700$ bill for battery replacement! And the funny part is he paid the money with an smile on his face and he was so proud of this specicility that his Porsche has, "Battery compartment door is powered by battery itself!"

Jesda
02-21-11, 10:17 PM
Wait, just remembered... my 1990 BMW 525 had issues with climate controls. Functions were integrated into a circuit board/heatsink called The Sword.

http://www.bmwe34.net/E34main/Maintenance/Electrical/Sword.htm

http://www.bmwe34.net/E34main/Maintenance/Electrical/Data/Sword.jpg

It did NOT have automatic climate control, so why all this electrical idiocy was required to operate the fan was beyond me. To the car's credit, it had 230,000 miles at that point, and the engine and manual transmission were rock solid, never leaking a drop of anything. BMW also simplified it over the years, replacing the $140 circuit board/heat sink with a simple $30 resistor pack, a very un-German thing to do. I love older BMWs.

I~LUV~Caddys8792
02-21-11, 10:22 PM
We're about to get Rick Roll'd 3.....2.....1....

96Fleetwood
02-21-11, 10:24 PM
The next day I saw him with a 600-700$ bill for battery replacement! And the funny part is he paid the money with an smile on his face and he was so proud of this specicility that his Porsche has, "Battery compartment door is powered by battery itself!"

The new Cadillacs are just as bad. How about the $980 dollars my Father just paid to have the left low beam Xenon bulb replaced on his 2006 DTS. Apparently they have to remove the front bumper to do this....:bigroll:. Now the right side started flickering... I told him to sell the car.

It is not just the German cars... or American cars.. etc etc. Look at all the 50K+ luxury cars and price out electrical repairs when they are out of factory warranty.

orconn
02-21-11, 11:29 PM
The new Cadillacs are just as bad. How about the $980 dollars my Father just paid to have the left low beam Xenon bulb replaced on his 2006 DTS. Apparently they have to remove the front bumper to do this....:bigroll:. Now the right side started flickering... I told him to sell the car.

It is not just the German cars... or American cars.. etc etc. Look at all the 50K+ luxury cars and price out electrical repairs when they are out of factory warranty.

I guess you could say Cadillac is a success at trying to be more of a German car!

Jesda
02-21-11, 11:33 PM
Lexus gets a point for at least not needing electrical repairs as often.

We'll see how the Genesis and Equus do.

Destroyer
02-22-11, 12:25 AM
Yeah, come to think of it, I had a lot of weird electrical issues with the S320, which was designed and built in Germany by Germans.
When it was damp out, the radio wouldn't work at all, but rather it would say "Phone not found" on the screen, which would have made sense if it had the optional factory installed cell phone in the console....it did not. Also, when it was damp, the power antenna wouldn't rise at all. And when it got below about 30*, the mode door in the HVAC wouldn't work at all....and if you hit the throttle, it would default to defrost position....but when it got above freezing, it worked perfect.

Bizarre to say the least. I never experienced any of those problems but I am in Florida.........:cool2:

Playdrv4me
02-22-11, 02:18 AM
Elias hit the nail on the head, the origin of the car has a lot less to do with this than the price and the AMOUNT of gadgets does. The proportion of electrical issues I've had in my German to American car experience is probably just about split right down the middle. I had a flawless 330i (all of my 3 series were actually electrically flawless and guess what, those are/were sub 40k vehicles), and a worthless 745i. I had at least one miserable Seville and a flawless Escalade. My 2000 Expedition, which couldn't fathom in its wildest dreams being called a luxury anything, has an intermittent oil pressure sending unit, sticking door locks and just ate an alternator. Oh, and on a long drive recently I discovered the digital odometer likes to randomly blink off for NO apparent reason. Different cars, different levels of complexity, different problems. Even my Lexuses have had their share of quirks.

DouglasJRizzo
02-22-11, 09:39 AM
Everyone has a glitch somewhere. MB's are also known for splitting rear axles. I've seen 2 300E's do that with less than 100k on either of them. BMW's are prone to have the bumpers and soft trim get ratty very quickly. Toyotas, in addition to having them drive themselves at triple digit speeds have paint and corrosion issues.

As I've said elsewhere on this forum - there is an aura that the teutonic marketing machine has crafted, of Hans and Fritz hammering out sedans in a quaint Bavarian village, when in fact, that simply is not the case. A neighbor had their 550 sedan in for A/C problems numerous times. It happens. A relative had a CLK that developed electrical gremlins that plagued it for most of its lease.

The difference is in how the problem is looked upon.

Some years ago, Car and Driver did a "ten best" road test (as they do nearly every year) and the BMW 325 developed a load of maladies early in the test including locking the left front brake so hard the car would try to spin around, and the iDrive and other electronic functions went horribly wonky. Did it get catigated for that? No! They went on to say how great BMW's were regardless of this. The CTS in the test placed around mid pack, with a "ho-hum" report even though it posted no issues and was of tighter build than the 325. Had the CTS developed the same woes, the hue and cry would've been heard everywhere that "Cadillac is crap" and you'd still be hearing it today.

concorso
02-22-11, 08:39 PM
Echoing what some others have said.. Ive had electrical gremlins on most of my cars, regardless of brand. Some issues were bigger then others, but theyve all had electronic issues after a few years. For example, my CTS has intermittent flashing of the interior lights, been happening since I bought it new. My 540i has an ongoing issue with the passenger side headlight turning on and off. Plus, both power headrests have stopped working.

Destroyer
02-23-11, 10:19 PM
Yeah, come to think of it, I had a lot of weird electrical issues with the S320, which was designed and built in Germany by Germans. Sure it wasn't Mexican Germans?

orconn
02-23-11, 11:38 PM
Sure it wasn't Mexican Germans?

No it was Turks that put the S320 together. Destroyer, I understand you know something about Turks!

concorso
03-03-11, 10:33 PM
The new Cadillacs are just as bad. How about the $980 dollars my Father just paid to have the left low beam Xenon bulb replaced on his 2006 DTS. Do they get paid $300/hour? The bulb is should be less then $150...bi-xenon in the DTS correct?

Destroyer
03-03-11, 11:24 PM
No it was Turks that put the S320 together. Destroyer, I understand you know something about Turks!Nope, not me. I love everyone except for a few......:shhh:

Playdrv4me
03-03-11, 11:49 PM
Do they get paid $300/hour? The bulb is should be less then $150...bi-xenon in the DTS correct?

Yea it's bi-xenon like the Escalade. Still just one bulb but there's a mirror mechanism that throws the light up and out when you hit the high beams. With some cars though just getting to the damn bulb REALLY IS HOURS of labor because the damn manufacturer thinks they'll last the life of the car.

96Fleetwood
03-04-11, 06:52 AM
Do they get paid $300/hour? The bulb is should be less then $150...bi-xenon in the DTS correct?

They said you must remove the entire front bumper to replace the bulb. That is where the labor charges came from...ingenious design.

EChas3
03-05-11, 01:57 PM
A design team is more concerned about an extra inch of front overhang than a 1-hour labor charge. Too bad the wheel-liner committee missed that meeting.

concorso
03-07-11, 07:56 PM
They said you must remove the entire front bumper to replace the bulb. That is where the labor charges came from...ingenious design.I get this as you have to do that with the CTS. For me, it took 2.5 hours to replace the bulbs the first time I needed to. Im sure Ill be able to do it in less then 1.5 hours next time. Either way, 2.5 hours at $100/hour + cost of bulb is still significantly south of $900. If you remove the cost of the bulb, and assume 100/hr labor, it took them about 6 hours to take a bumper off? Id look for another dealer...

jayoldschool
03-07-11, 08:03 PM
All my cars are RWD GM. Unfortunately, my wife owns a 1.8T VW Beetle Sport. I have invented new swear words working on that car. I hate it so much. The designers were masochists. It is incomprehensible to me some of the engineering decisions that were made in the manufacturing of that car.

Can't wait for this summer when I have to do a timing belt and water pump on it. Should be a great time.

Playdrv4me
03-08-11, 07:38 PM
All my cars are RWD GM. Unfortunately, my wife owns a 1.8T VW Beetle Sport. I have invented new swear words working on that car. I hate it so much. The designers were masochists. It is incomprehensible to me some of the engineering decisions that were made in the manufacturing of that car.

Can't wait for this summer when I have to do a timing belt and water pump on it. Should be a great time.

Funny, when you mentioned the Beetle I thought for sure you were gonna mention the headlights, which are apparently among the worst ever to change in anything with 4 wheels.