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First Mercedes goes for a test drive

First Mercedes goes for a test drive

On November 22, 1900, the first car to be produced under the Mercedes name is taken for its inaugural drive in Cannstatt, Germany. The car was specially built for its buyer, Emil Jellinek, an entrepreneur with a passion for fast, flashy cars. Jellinek had commissioned the Mercedes car from the German company Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft: it was lighter and sleeker than any car the company had made before, and Jellinek was confident that it would win races so handily that besotted buyers would snap it up. (He was so confident that he bought 36 of them.) In exchange for this extraordinary patronage, the company agreed to name its new machine after Jellinek’s 11-year-old daughter, Mercedes.

In 1886, the German engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach had built one of the world’s first “horseless carriages,” a four-wheeled carriage with an engine bolted to it. In 1889, the two men built the world’s first four-wheeled automobile to be powered by a four-stroke engine. They formed Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft the next year.

In 1896, Emil Jellinek saw an ad for the D-M-G auto in a German magazine. Then, as the story goes, he traveled to D-M-G’s Cannstatt factory, charged onto the factory floor wearing a pith helmet, pince-nez and mutton-chop sideburns and demanded that the company sell him the most spectacular car it had.

That car was sturdy, but it could only go 15 miles per hour–not even close to fast enough for Jellinek. In 1898, he ordered two more cars, stipulating that they be able to go at least 10 miles per hour faster than the first one could. Daimler complied; the result was the 8-horsepower Phoenix. Jellinek was impressed enough with the Phoenix that he began to sell them to his friends: 10 in 1899, 29 in 1900.

At the same time, he needed a racing car that could go even faster. Jellinek went back to D-M-G with a business proposition: if it would build him the world’s best speedster (and name it the Mercedes), he would buy 36 of them.

The new Mercedes car was fast. It also introduced the aluminum crankcase, magnalium bearings, the pressed-steel frame, a new kind of coil-spring clutch and the honeycomb radiator (essentially the same one that today’s Mercedes use). It was longer, wider, and lower than the Phoenix and had better brakes. Also, a mechanic could convert the new Mercedes from a two-seat racer to a four-seat family car in just a few minutes.

In 1902, the company legally registered the Mercedes brand name.


History of self-driving cars

Experiments have been conducted on self-driving cars since at least the 1920s [1] promising trials took place in the 1950s and work has proceeded since then. The first self-sufficient and truly autonomous cars appeared in the 1980s, with Carnegie Mellon University's Navlab [2] and ALV [3] [4] projects in 1984 and Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich's Eureka Prometheus Project [5] in 1987. Since then, numerous major companies and research organizations have developed working autonomous vehicles including Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Continental Automotive Systems, Autoliv Inc., Bosch, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, Vislab from University of Parma, Oxford University and Google. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] In July 2013, Vislab demonstrated BRAiVE, a vehicle that moved autonomously on a mixed traffic route open to public traffic. [13]

As of 2019, twenty-nine U.S. states have passed laws permitting autonomous cars. [14]

Some UNECE members and EU members and the UK have some rules and regulations related to automated and fully automated cars: In Europe, cities in Belgium, France, Italy and the UK are planning to operate transport systems for driverless cars, [15] [16] [17] and Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain have allowed testing robotic cars in traffic.

In 2020, the UK, the EU and Japan are also on track to regulate automated cars. [ citation needed ]


Long-distance journey by Bertha Benz (1888)

Using an improved version and without her husband’s knowledge, Benz’s wife Bertha and their two sons Eugen (15) and Richard (14) embarked on the first long-distance journey in automotive history on an August day in 1888. The route included a few detours and took them from Mannheim to Pforzheim, her place of birth. With this journey of 180 kilometers including the return trip Bertha Benz demonstrated the practicality of the motor vehicle to the entire world. Without her daring – and that of her sons – and the decisive stimuli that resulted from it, the subsequent growth of Benz & Cie. in Mannheim to become the world’s largest automobile plant of its day would have been unthinkable.


Road Test: 2005 Mercedes Benz SLK350

"Airscarf" sounds like a nice gift for a wife or girlfriend. It's also what Mercedes-Benz calls a new option that blasts warm air from a vent at the base of the headrests at any of three speeds onto the necks of the driver and passenger--all offered in the second-generation SLK-Class. The goal is top-down comfort in sub-60-degree Fahrenheit weather. Make that 15.5-degrees Celsius.

The Airscarf isn't coming to the land of Fahrenheit under that name, however, because its makers aspire to find more male buyers (versus the largely female buyership that favored the 1998-2004 model). You can buy the option for your SLK350 this fall, but only by its butch name, Active Heated Headrest, which cries out for a typically Benz abbreviation, AHH. "Like my new Merc? It has ESP, ABS, EBD, and AHH."

Alphabet soup aside, the new SLK does come off as less of a chick car than its predecessor. Mercedes can't overcome this issue because SLK always plays New Millennium 190SL to the brawny SL500. While the SLK attempts to mock the flavor of a McLaren-Mercedes F1 car, the sides of the body look pleasantly Reubenesque. It's not the kind of car David Coulthard would date. Still, the McLaren-Mercedes F1 pilot would miss out on a body that handles itself well in the curves, thank you. The SLK has a stout new chassis and high-strength steel alloy in 42 percent of the body's structure.

Mercedes claims 46-percent-better torsional strength with the top down and 19-percent-more bending strength. This seems plausible--we felt no cowl shake, top up or down.

The biggest improvement is its new engine. The supercharged four is gone from the U.S. market, and SLK launches here in September with a 268-horsepower, 258 pound-feet, 3.5-liter V-6 from the new four-valve engine line. Variable valve timing for intake and exhaust and a two-stage intake manifold help produce max torque from 2400 to 5000 rpm, with 87 percent at 1500. An SLK55 AMG with a seven-speed automatic goes on sale a couple of months after the SLK350, the only sports car in its class (BMW Z4, Porsche Boxster, Honda S2000) with a V-8 engine. Later, a new 3.0-liter four-valve V-6 will become the SLK's base engine in our market. The SLK350 will be priced from the mid-$40,000s, the SLK55 in the low-mid $50,000s.

The car's 3.5 V-6, stout chassis, and well-balanced suspension make the SLK an ideal sports car for mountain road drives. It's crisper and sharper in every input versus the old SLK320. Quick, precise steering with good feedback and light feel is largely due to a switch from recirculating-ball to rack-and-pinion. The short-throw six-speed manual has snicky, quick action, making it one of the best gearboxes in the sports-car biz, replacing what must have been among the worst.

Ride and handling are well-refined, without much compromise to either. You feel bumps and expansion strips on the highways, but there's enough compliance to keep them from being uncomfortable. And in mountain curves, the suspension rolls just enough to lean into a hard bite, giving your backside time to warn your hands to respond to oversteer. With electronic stability control on, oversteer is blunted to point the car in the right direction without braking. Turn the ESP off, and the tail slides out more--you can induce the need for some opposite lock--but the electronic nanny still eases in to keep things safe. It's progressive and predictable, perfect fun on perfect roads.


1. The test drive begins as soon as you’re on the lot

  • Examine the vehicle’s body for dents, cracks and rust. Check the windshield for nicks and cracks.
  • Check the tires for remaining tread life and signs of uneven wear. The latter can indicate poor alignment.
  • Try out the turn signals and brake lights.

2. Start the car and let it idle for a few minutes

  • Make sure the engine runs strong and listen for any troubling noises, such as rattling, clicking or whining.
  • Turn on the radio, heater and air conditioner to be sure they work properly.
  • Check the dashboard for warning lights and verify that the gauges work. Once the car warms up, the temperature gauge should be at the midpoint. Closer to “hot” can be a sign of overheating.
  • Make sure the seats are comfortable and the ceilings are high enough.

3. Drive the car on a street with stop-and-go traffic

  • Notice how the brakes feel when you come to a complete stop. Do they feel jumpy, sticky or loose?
  • Listen for any grinding or squeaking noises, which can indicate worn brake pads and rotors.
  • How does the car handle potholes and rough roads? Drive slowly and listen for rattles or knocks, which can indicate steering issues.
  • What about 90-degree turns? The car should navigate them smoothly and effortlessly. Resistance or pulling can be a sign of power steering or suspension problems.

4. Drive on a highway where you can reach speeds of 55 m.p.h. or more

  • Does the car accelerate quickly and move smoothly from gear to gear? Engine hesitation is a bad sign.
  • Locate the car’s blind spots. This is one tip that is just as important when test driving new cars as it is when test driving used cars.
  • Carefully switch lanes several times to see how the steering reacts at high speeds.
  • Make sure the steering doesn’t pull to either side, which can indicate suspension or alignment problems.
  • Listen carefully when you’re driving on the highway. Hear any squeaks, whines or rattles behind the sound of the engine?
  • If possible, drive up and down a hill to verify that the car upshifts and downshifts appropriately.

5. Find a parking lot or street to practice parallel parking

  • Make sure the steering doesn’t feel stiff and you can finely maneuver the car while parallel parking.
  • Ensure that the car shifts smoothly from drive to reverse – if the car jolts or makes a grinding noise when shifting gears, it can be a sign of a bad transmission.
  • Pay attention to how responsive the car is – do the gas and brake pedals feel different in reverse gear?
  • Get comfortable with fitting the car into a standard parking space, particularly if the vehicle is a larger truck or SUV.

If the test drive goes well, request a vehicle history report and have the car inspected by a mechanic. Remember never to settle when it comes to test driving a car. Make time to test drive multiple vehicles during the shopping process—you want to be sure you end up with the best option for you.

Use these five test drive tips that outline what to look for on a test drive.

    The test drive begins as soon as you’re on the lot

Examine the vehicle’s body for dents, cracks and rust. Check the windshield for nicks and cracks. Check the tires for remaining tread life and signs of uneven wear. The latter can indicate poor alignment. Try out the turn signals and brake lights.

Make sure the engine runs strong and listen for any troubling noises, such as rattling, clicking or whining.
Turn on the radio, heater and air conditioner to be sure they work properly. Check the dashboard for warning lights and verify that the gauges work. Once the car warms up, the temperature gauge should be at the midpoint. Closer to “hot” can be a sign of overheating. Make sure the seats are comfortable and the ceilings are high enough.

Notice how the brakes feel when you come to a complete stop. Do they feel jumpy, sticky or loose? Listen for any grinding or squeaking noises, which can indicate worn brake pads and rotors. How does the car handle potholes and rough roads? Drive slowly and listen for rattles or knocks, which can indicate steering issues. What about 90-degree turns? The car should navigate them smoothly and effortlessly. Resistance or pulling can be a sign of power steering or suspension problems.

Does the car accelerate quickly and move smoothly from gear to gear? Engine hesitation is a bad sign. Locate the car’s blind spots. This is one tip that is just as important when test driving new cars as it is when test driving used cars. Carefully switch lanes several times to see how the steering reacts at high speeds.
Make sure the steering doesn’t pull to either side, which can indicate suspension or alignment problems. Listen carefully when you’re driving on the highway. Hear any squeaks, whines or rattles behind the sound of the engine? If possible, drive up and down a hill to verify that the car upshifts and downshifts appropriately.

Make sure the steering doesn’t feel stiff and you can finely maneuver the car while parallel parking. Ensure that the car shifts smoothly from drive to reverse – if the car jolts or makes a grinding noise when shifting gears, it can be a sign of a bad transmission. Pay attention to how responsive the car is – do the gas and brake pedals feel different in reverse gear? Get comfortable with fitting the car into a standard parking space, particularly if the vehicle is a larger truck or SUV.


Customer Service, the New Mercedes-Benz Way

Customer service can make or break a company. So it’s surprising to learn that Mercedes-Benz – one of the most highly respected car manufacturers in the world – used to have a reputation for dismal customer service.

In the book Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way, New York Times’ bestselling author Joseph Michelli examines the changes made at the top to rescue the company from itself.

Michelli sat down with [email protected] to discuss Mercedes-Benz’s colorful history and customer service turnaround on the [email protected] on Wharton Business Radio on SiriusXM channel 111. (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

An edited transcript of the conversation appears below.

Joseph Michelli: I guarantee you that someone listening to (or reading) this interview right now is remembering how awful it was to be in the service line at Mercedes-Benz.

[email protected]: That’s strange because Mercedes-Benz is known for its quality cars, so you wouldn’t assume that this had been an issue. Explain how this all came about for Mercedes-Benz.

Michelli: Our greatest strength is our greatest weakness. Their greatest strength was innovation and engineering. Their product was amazing. Sometimes you fall in love with your product and it becomes challenging to shift the working culture to stay in step with the times. But today, a good product isn’t enough.

[email protected]: What kind of approach did they take? Did they emphasize their technology and assume that the technology alone would keep people coming back?

Michelli: That was the core challenge they faced. Of course, some dealerships were phenomenal — I don’t want to cast this with a broad brush. But the focus was the product. At one point in the company’s history, I interviewed customers who kept saying things like, “I should feel grateful that I got this car.” That was the perception that they had, based on the way they were treated at time of sale, and more importantly, in the service drive after they purchased the vehicle.

“It wasn’t good enough to simply out-Lexus Lexus in terms of the customer experience.”

[email protected]: Mercedes is unique in the auto industry because they really haven’t had any large mechanical issues in the last couple of years, correct?

Michelli: Relatively speaking, I think that’s true. They came out of the Chrysler merger with some morale issues and quality issues, but that was a long time ago. They had to get their staff re-engaged and motivated at the corporate level after that, so they focused on employee engagement at the corporate level and frequently got on Fortune’s list of best places to work. Beyond that, the corporate leadership had to re-engage people around the brand and change the conversation so that they weren’t only talked about for their engineering or marketing, but for the incredible experiences customers could have in dealerships.

[email protected]: This was a philosophical change that came right from the top. Stephen Cannon, the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, was the guy who really started to drive this change, correct?

Michelli: Absolutely, and it really was visionary. The executives had meetings to discuss key opportunities and this was it.

The Lexus brand was created from the best-of-the-best Toyota dealers. They had a customer manifesto when they came onto the scene. Lexus had a fresh approach to customer orientation that challenged Mercedes dealers who had been putting cars on the market for generations.

I think Stephen Cannon wanted to bring the brand up to speed and decided that it wasn’t good enough to simply out-Lexus Lexus in terms of the customer experience. He really needed Mercedes to be the best for customer service, as per the brand promise.

[email protected]: What Mercedes-Benz is dealing with now is obviously different than what they were dealing with 40 years ago in terms of competition in the U.S. market. There weren’t as many high-end options for consumers. So in some respects, competitors like Lexus forced this change.

Michelli: It’s a common theme in business right now. A recent Forrester study says 92% of companies say customer experience is a top strategic priority. They are trying to differentiate their business based on customer experience. Yet the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows customer satisfaction is at a nine-year low.

It’s not the products. It is a proliferation of competitors who have access to comparable products, so the differentiation comes in the execution of customer experience.

[email protected] High School

[email protected]: Through your book and its exploration of the Mercedes-Benz story, you’re also opening the door for other corporate leaders to think about their customer experience, correct?

Michelli: Yes. I’ve been blessed to be a consultant in this space. In fact, I came to Mercedes-Benz to help them benchmark their business against Ritz-Carlton and Zappos, which are other brands I’ve written about and worked with. For me, it is all about helping every single person improve the quality of experiences they provide to consumers because we all rise with better experiences. This means less stress. We don’t have to work so hard to get our needs met, and we have technology integration.

[email protected]: How did the poor customer service at dealerships affect the bottom line?

Michelli: It’s important to note that the lifetime value of a customer is linked to their willingness to maintain a service relationship with the brand, which increases the probability that they’ll want to buy another car with the brand again. This ensures customers aren’t lured in by a competitor.

“Competitors … have access to comparable products, so the differentiation comes in the execution of customer experience.”

Things suffered on the service side because people asked themselves, “Do I get it serviced at a Mercedes-Benz dealership or do I go outside of the dealership family?” The company was having significant churn and attrition in that space because service at the Mercedes-Benz dealerships was not up to standard.

[email protected]: Also, when you look at customer experience, you’re not simply competing against other automakers, as you alluded to before. You’re also competing against Ritz-Carlton and other top brands as well.

Michelli: Yes. For example, Tesla’s creation of their customer experience, which has a more retail type of sales environment, is much more comparable to Apple than the traditional car dealership experience.

Of course, Tesla has a much lower sales volume, so it’s not a fair comparison with Mercedes-Benz. But it demonstrates the disruptive force that exists in how things are changing in the industry. For example, people are buying more of their vehicles online and are just going into the dealership to sign the deal and to test-drive the vehicle.

Most of these purchasing decisions now happen much earlier in the process, thanks to technology. This change in purchasing habits has to change the way you think about the customer experience. For example, I don’t need to go to a cashier at Apple to check out. I can do it right by the products, or in advance. There are many technology advances that are changing the way things are done.

Unfortunately, for a long time in the service drive at Mercedes-Benz, customers still had to go from the service advisor to the cashier to pay. But that’s all changing with the integration of technology and a re-thinking of how the system works.

[email protected]: Does Mercedes-Benz have data to demonstrate how changes at the dealerships’ service departments affected the bottom line?

Michelli: Absolutely, both in terms of repeat business and the willingness to stay with the brand. There’s no doubt that profits are associated with that.

I read a report saying that if you use a tablet to sell a car, you normally get about $500 more for each car sale because there are car features that you can’t appreciate unless somebody shows them to you from a technological perspective. By investing money in the tablet, you derive repeated benefit.

[email protected]: You previously wrote about Starbucks. Are there similarities between Starbucks and Mercedes-Benz in terms of customer service successes?

Michelli: Yes. I always preach the same thing: You need to know how you want your customers to feel about your brand, and they can’t feel everything. You have to define that emotional outcome. At Starbucks, it’s all about uplifting moments. The company wants customers to have an uplifting moment in their day and so employees are trained to be create uplifting moments. At Mercedes-Benz, they’re trying to delight customers. They want you to leave talking about how you were delighted. They want you tweeting about it and sharing it with your friends. In both instances, this goes above and beyond mere customer satisfaction.

[email protected]: In your book, you mention one gentleman who talked about his experience at the dealership and sitting in the new car. He basically said, “If I didn’t want to buy the car, I never should have sat in the car in the first place.” Some dealerships and some automakers just have that type of product, where customers have to get in the car to see it’s the right choice.

Michelli: Absolutely. In retail right now, if you can get customers to stay in your store longer, they tend to spend more. This has led retail stores to offer items like coffee, tea and hot chocolate to try to get people to spend more time in the store, giving them more sensory connections to the experience of the store. The same is true with a car. Once you sit in it, feel the leather and smell the new car smell, you’re halfway there.

[email protected]: The Mercedes-Benz brand is among the best in the world. So the last thing that the company would want is to tarnish the brand with poor customer service when people get their cars serviced.

Michelli: Yes. I’ve written about Ritz-Carlton in the past too. In some cases, I think there’s a point when employees can develop a certain arrogance around the brand. They think that they have created amazing brand equity because of their quality product, but then they forget that the product can be tarnished by a poor customer experience. If anything, a great experience can lift a product up.

“The future is bright for the auto industry.”

[email protected]: Take us through some of the key things that the Mercedes-Benz management realized they needed to change.

Michelli: Mercedes doesn’t control those private dealers. So they had to influence those dealers and get them onboard with a new vision for customer experience. To do that, they had to ensure it wasn’t going to cost a lot more to deliver the experience. They spent a lot of time looking for cost offsets. They found that if you owned a Mercedes-Benz, you were guaranteed lifetime roadside assistance, regardless of whether you bought it at a dealership or from a friend, and regardless of your service arrangements. Management decided to change the roadside assistance policy to ensure they were only serving customers who were engaged with the brand, which helped them save money for other parts of the customer service experience.

Once money was freed up, the company started to see the derivative benefit of engaging customers. And then the profits started to align for those dealers too.

[email protected]: How much did changing the service element also affect the sales element? The two go hand-in-hand, but in many cases they are two totally different worlds.

Michelli: You have to link them up. They may seem like different worlds in the minds of department workers within the dealerships. But as far as customers are concerned, a Mercedes-Benz is a Mercedes-Benz, regardless of whether you’re buying the car or getting it serviced.

I’ve seen smart dealerships that make incentives for salespeople, telling them they won’t get paid until they warmly hand off customers to the service department. There are strategies to make those links happen to ensure the customer journey is seamless.

[email protected]: Did notes from concerned or upset customers encourage the management team to make these changes?

Michelli: Absolutely. If you listen to your customers, they’ll tell you whether or not your experience is resonating with them. Clearly, there’s going to be breakdowns, but great organizations leverage a breakdown, fix it for that customer and find out whether there’s an underlying process that causes breakdowns to happen again and again. Then they fix those processes.

[email protected]: What did Stephen Cannon learn from this whole process?

Michelli: I think he’s good at making hearts and minds follow his vision. He got people experiencing the brand in a rich way that they hadn’t experienced before.

Many different people work in dealerships – for example a payroll administrator – and some of these people had never driven a Mercedes themselves. Cannon was masterful at making sure there were vehicles available for those people to actually drive the car. He created an exciting brand immersion program that allowed dealership staff to see the cars being produced in Alabama. The program took them to the test track, had them drive the vehicles off road and taught them about safety innovations and the history of the company. They learned about what it meant to be “driven to delight.”

He’s been masterful at creating a strong culture. I think he thinks culture is the most important thing you can create to sustain your success.

[email protected]: How did this change dynamics at the board level for Mercedes-Benz USA?

Michelli: They are so aligned on the board. It is a crazy aligned leadership team. Once you have agreement between the board of directors and the C-Suite, then you just need to keep centrically working it out throughout the organization to make sure the customer can feel the change too.

[email protected]: What do you see for Mercedes-Benz going forward? The U.S. auto market is such a dynamic place. In the last few years Mercedes-Benz has really tried to attract what would be considered the middle-class customer, as well. This marks a dynamic shift in how they approach sales, service and the whole nine yards.

Michelli: Yes. They’ve done a masterful job. Mercedes has done a brilliant job with the CLA vehicle and other segment strategies. They are opening the brand up to aspirational buyers at a younger age and creating a new generation of life-long Mercedes customers.

The future is bright for the auto industry. There are some incredibly exciting innovations happening right now. I think there will be more connections between the cars and the dealerships. Big data is going to allow a wonderful, customized experience for drivers. It’s going to be a lot easier to get your needs met in the future. I think we’re moving away from VIN numbers to a system where the customer is at the center, much like the Apple ID system, which centers all of your Apple products around you instead of linking you to an individual product.


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7 Things Not to Do at a Car Dealership

Don&rsquot make things more difficult for yourself. Here&rsquos how to navigate the process.

A lot of people will offer hints on what to do in the dealership when it comes time to buy a car. And tips on test driving, negotiation, and financing are valuable. But the path to a car purchase is so strewn with boulders that if you don&rsquot watch your step, you can stub a toe or even break a leg, metaphorically speaking. Car buying can be such a complicated process that knowing what not to do in the dealership might be even more important than knowing what to do.

If you do one or more of these seven things we advise against, it will make getting a good deal harder. Don&rsquot make things more difficult for yourself. You want to land the right vehicle for the best possible price, so here&rsquos what you should not do when you visit the dealership:

1. Don&rsquot Enter the Dealership without a Plan

You can stroll into a restaurant without knowing what you want to eat and get a good meal. You can wander into a big-box store just to kill some time and walk out with a decent microwave oven or button-down shirt. But if you mosey into a car dealership lacking a plan, there is a good chance you&rsquoll come out with a crater-size hole in your bank account. Not only that, your misspent Saturday morning could haunt you for years to come. A car purchase should not be an impulse buy. Know&mdashdon&rsquot guess, know&mdashwhat your current car is worth, what the car you plan to buy is selling for, how much money you can put down, and how much money you can spend on a monthly car payment. If you know all this going in, you&rsquoll be way ahead of most car buyers.

2. Don&rsquot Let the Salesperson Steer You to a Vehicle You Don&rsquot Want

Typically, a dealership is always trying to sell the vehicles it has in stock, Fuller told us. And that is not always in the best interest of the customer. &ldquoIf the salesperson really knows the inventory, then he or she is trying to match up the customer with something that can be sold today,&rdquo Fuller said. If you are not specific and firm about what you want, the dealership will attempt to put you into a vehicle that it&rsquos trying to move, even if it isn&rsquot what&rsquos best for you. Don&rsquot let yourself be sold a car.

3. Don't Discuss Your Trade-In Too Early

It&rsquos almost always possible&mdashwith time and effort&mdashto sell an old car privately for more than the dealer offers in trade. Many buyers nevertheless find the convenience of driving their old car in and their new one away compelling. If that&rsquos your aim, research the value of your trade-in beforehand but decline offers or pressure to discuss it until after you&rsquove settled the price on the new car. If it turns out that you&rsquore &ldquoupside down&rdquo on the old car&mdashthat is, you owe more money on it than you&rsquore getting in trade&mdashyou probably don&rsquot belong in a new-car dealership yet. At the least, the car should be sold privately to pay off the debt. Yes, the dealer will offer to roll your old debt into a new loan. But that's not a good idea.

4. Don&rsquot Give the Dealership Your Car Keys or Your Driver&rsquos License

It is almost as anachronistic as a pocket watch, but some dealers&mdashhappily fewer than ever before, according to Christopher Sutton, vice president of automotive retail at J.D. Power&mdashstill engage in tactics designed to keep you in the showroom until a deal is made. A couple of the tried-and-not-so-true tactics revolve around test-drive vehicles. Before a test drive, the salesperson might ask for your car keys and/or your driver&rsquos license &ldquoas security.&rdquo Then, when you return and want to leave without buying, the car keys or the license will go missing. &ldquoWe don&rsquot see it that much anymore,&rdquo Sutton told us, referring to abusive dealer tactics. &ldquoAnd I think the advent of ratings and reviews online . . . has contributed to that.&rdquo

Yes, a wise dealership needs to determine that you have a valid driver's license before allowing you to take a car out for a test spin, but they don't need to take it from you and hold it as some sort of deposit. It should be enough for them to know your identity and your address. Since you have typically parked your own car at the dealership, there is the strong likelihood you will return. Further, when you go on the test drive, it is obviously good for you to have your driver's license in your possession.

5. Don&rsquot Let the Dealership Run a Credit Check

If you are going to finance your new car with a loan, the dealer will have to run a credit check eventually, but don&rsquot agree to this before you are well on your way to completing a deal. A full-on credit check, also known as a &ldquohard pull,&rdquo can negatively affect your credit rating. There is no point okaying a credit check and risking a ding to your credit if you&rsquore a long way from buying.

6. Don&rsquot Engage in Monthly Payment Negotiations

Remember, you&rsquore in the dealership to buy a vehicle, not to wedge a vehicle payment into your monthly budget. If you started with a plan that includes the maximum price you will pay for the vehicle based on your own affordability limits, the monthly payments should be a byproduct of the negotiation. &ldquoProblems arise when the customer is backed into a corner because he or she wants more vehicle than he or she can reasonably and rightfully afford,&rdquo Fuller said. &ldquoTo make the deal work, a typical solution is to drastically extend the duration of the payment schedule. Maybe the customer can afford $500 per month, but at 60 months, that payment won&rsquot work. So the dealer bumps it to 72 or 84 months. This is a really bad idea for the customer.&rdquo

7. Don&rsquot Feel You Have to Buy Right Now

For many people, purchasing a new car is a stressful experience, so they try to get it over with as quickly as humanly possible, and that can lead to negative results. In their eagerness to get through it, they don&rsquot consider their options carefully or negotiate skillfully. (For instance, walking away is an excellent negotiating tactic that you might hesitate to employ if your priority is simply getting the deal over with.) While dealer personnel will often put pressure on you to buy now, using gambits like, &ldquoI can only give you this price today,&rdquo you are very well advised to take your time. Today&rsquos new-car market is hotly competitive. There is absolutely no reason to feel rushed by a limited-time offer odds are that an offer just as good, or better, will be available tomorrow.

Heed these warnings, and your path to a car purchase should be far less strenuous. And you&rsquoll be in better shape&mdashfinancially, and maybe even emotionally&mdashonce the deal is done.


Mercedes-Benz EQC First Thoughts

After my short time with the EQC, I mostly came out impressed by Mercedes-Benz’s first real entry in the all-electric vehicle space.

It’s going to have some decent competition in the space with a few other premium all-electric SUVs coming to market around the same time.

The EQC is a little smaller with less cargo space than the competition, like the Audi e-tron.

I think it will have a tough time competing, but for Mercedes-Benz fans who are looking to go electric, it will be the smoothest transition for them.

The electric SUV is not extremely efficient and with a limited 80 kWh usable battery capacity, its range might be short for some people even though 200+ miles of range is more than enough for the vast majority of car buyers.

I suppose a lot will depend on the price, which hasn’t been announced yet.

If Mercedes-Benz can keep it under $70,000 before incentives, it could still be an interesting option, but I would need to spend more time with the car.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC is coming to Europe starting next month and it should arrive in the US early next year.

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