Unlike Audi and Jaguar, Mercedes already has a full electric vehicle on the road (albeit one they discontinued last year). We happen to own one of those EVs, a 2014 model year B Class Electric Drive. From the very beginning, it has been somewhat eye opening as to how Mercedes dealers here feel about EVs.
In the last few weeks, Mercedes announced their new EQC, an all electric SUV that is going to be their real entry into longer range electric vehicles to compete with Jaguar, Audi and, of course, Tesla. As it happened, our B Class was in the dealer for some work (a new windshield, replacing the one cracked by a rock thrown up on a local freeway, and a regular service). This documents the experience, and what I think it indicates about one dealer’s readiness for the EQC.
When we bought the car (an off-lease vehicle that was actually at a sister dealership to the one I normally visit), the sales person told me that he normally guided people away from the electrics into other cars. In my case, since I knew exactly what I wanted, that was not an option. Instead, he was sent to the other dealer to pick the car up and drive it over to my dealer so I could take a look at it.
That drive apparently changed his mind a little about EVs. He commented that he had been surprised that the little B Class felt quicker than his C Class sedan, and was actually more fun to drive than he had expected it to be.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when we came to look at the car the next day they had not bothered to plug it in overnight and recharge it, so it was saying about 20 miles of remaining range (we live further than that from the dealer). When I pointed out we would need to charge it before we could get home, he took it in the back and plugged it into a regular 110V outlet.
One thing that Mercedes has always been excellent at is dealer service. The B Class gets the same attention that any of my previous Mercedes vehicles have, despite costing a little less when new. Where things fall apart though is in handling an EV compared to an ICE car.
Of course, the car comes back fully valeted inside and out, and none of the Acura or Audi dealers my wife has tried with her cars even come close to the same standard. Even more amazing, at least to me, is that I can drop the car off with them whenever for a free valet & wash (it is probably lucky for them that they are not that close to our house!).
A few times though our EV has spent the night at the dealer, including this most recent visit (to let the windshield adhesive set fully). In those cases, I would also expect the car to have been plugged in to charge as well. But no. In fact, I don’t think they even have a level 2 charger (and with the EQC coming, I would expect them to have at least a 50kW DC one by now).
One of the things that needs to be done each year is “certification” of the main battery, in order to preserve the eight year warranty on it. This work, it says, must be done on time and by a Mercedes tech to keep the warranty coverage, and, as a result, is totally covered by the warranty. That includes the desiccant cartridges that need to be changed (quoted at $130) and all the labor to change them and test the battery.
When I first received the estimate for the service I was unaware of this, and, apparently, so was the dealership. When I found out about it from reading some online discussions, I asked my service advisor to look into it, and sure enough he was able to confirm that it was indeed covered by the battery warranty. Reducing the bill for the service from over $500 to just under $350. Based on the discussion online, it appears that few dealerships are aware of this, and just charge their customers for it. Does Mercedes not train their dealers on how to handle servicing for EVs? And why does the dealer’s computer system not know that on a car under 8 years old the battery warranty covers that part of the service work?
By the time I had sorted out all the paperwork for the various work orders, I was up against the start time for a conference call, so I took that in the dealer’s waiting area (they also have great, and free, coffee). On my way out, I walked through the showroom to see if they had any information about the EQC there. Seeing none, I asked a sales person about it. The response was that he had seen a picture of it, knew it was coming late next year and that the range would be about 300 miles (Mercedes announced 279 miles). He did not seem to have any interest in it whatsoever. And there were no signs, or even collateral available for it.
I would note here that I stopped by the Jaguar dealer a few weekends back to check out the I-Pace that they had on loan from Jaguar for a few days. When I pulled up there, they had a double outlet ChargePoint level 2 charger already installed on their forecourt (albeit ‘blocked’ by ICE cars), the sales staff had been on a training day at a track where they all got to drive the I-Pace, and learn about it, and they all seemed genuinely excited by having it in their showroom. Maybe when the EQC is a little closer to delivery the Mercedes sales staff will get similar training, and perhaps taking a drive in one will excite them more about selling EVs. They sure didn’t seem very excited at the prospect today (nor when we were buying the B Class).