April 15, 2006
When we decided to replace the ageing 2001 Mercedes E320 Wagon, K didn't want to really consider anything other than another Mercedes. In the five years she has driven the car, she has been extremely happy with the car as well as the two dealers in Colorado who have serviced the car.
The car has never stranded us once, and has never given any trouble. Other than a change of tires and the periodic change of plugs and regular oil changes, we have never had to replace anything on the car.
So we decided to go to Murray Motors in Denver, from whom we had bought the car in the first place, to explore the options. The idea of combining a European vacation with taking delivery of the new car in Germany seemed like a good idea. So, after calling ahead to set up an appointment with a salesman called Curtis at the dealership we set off for Denver.
When we arrived at the dealership, Curtis greeted us and asked us if we would like a test drive to check out the new car. K who usually doesn't like to do test drives decided that she would like try this one out. So Curtis got a temporary plate for the car and after taking a copy of one of our driver's licenses, showed us to a black E500 wagon (perhaps hoping that the extra power of the 5.0 liter V8 engine would cause us to go for the more expensive car than the E350 we were considering) and sent us on our way.
After a half-hour drive during which we managed to get ourselves slightly lost in Cherry Creek, we found our way back to the dealership. Curtis greeted us at the door and introduced us another salesman Ben, who said was going to look after us since Curtis had a customer delivery to take care of.
This struck me as somewhat odd, that a salesman would hand over a customer who needed no selling at all and was in the dealership to make a purchase. Low cost of sale and a definite close. Why then was he handing us over to Ben? Ben seemed cheerful but not necessarily overjoyed at this unexpected windfall of a customer with a definite intention to buy.
We were shown to Ben's desk to do the paperwork. K decided that she would like the E350 with 4Matic (Mercedes' excellent all-wheel drive system) and the Premium Package which includes all the goodies you would want including heated seats, sunroof, in-dash 6 disc CD changer, Harmon Kardon sound system and DVD-based satellite navigation system. After looking at all the cars on the dealer's lot she decided on black with ash leather upholstery.
Then came the negotiation of the price and the lease terms. I had come to the dealership armed with research from Edmunds.com on the optimum price that people were paying for this model, and swung into action with my trusty HP Financial calculator to figure out discounts and optimal lease rates. I could have saved myself the bother.
Mercedes offers a straight 7% discount off MSRP for European Delivery orders and the dealership was not willing to budge from this discount. My veiled threats that we would take our business to Glauser (the other Mercedes dealership somewhat closer to our home in Boulder) were completely ineffective and the discount remained stubbornly at the 7% level.
Although the 7% discount put the price below Edmund's recommended customer price, I thought a conversation with the Sales Manager of the dealership might yield some results. Once again I could have saved my breath.
Slowly the mystery of the salesman handoff was starting to become clear. Sandy Lara the Sales Manager, indulgingly explained that when customers order for European Delivery the dealership makes a fixed amount of money that is considerably less than the normal margin for a sale from the dealer's lot. Not a lot of money, and a sizeable headache. No wonder Curtis the first salesman wanted to palm us off at the first opportunity!
Anyway, we gracefully climbed down from our demand and settled on the 7% discount and put down a deposit of $2,000.
Ben is going to call the US headquarters of Mercedes-Benz on Monday April 17, and put the order in. We would like delivery on July 17 which is a Monday, so we can have all of the two following weeks to drive from Germany across the Alps through Switzerland to Italy and drive back to Stuttgart to drop the car off for shipment home to Boulder.