Buying the wrong 4x4: What would you do?

DieselFumes

2015 4x4 2500 170 Crew
First, story time. Then, a question for the combined expertise of the forum.

I ordered a 4x4 on the first day of availability, October 2014. I found a dealer who offered to meet me half way between invoice and MSRP. This is at a time when most were asking for MSRP or above. Good deal, right?

Fast forward to mid-May. I ask for an update, and am told the van will be at the dealership June 1.

June 1, no van. More emails and calls exchanged over the next couple of weeks (mostly at my prompting). Finally, I’m told “Oh, apparently that was the date your van landed at Lasdon, not the dealer date.” New date “About a month.”

4th of July weekend, it’s still in California waiting to be trucked up to the Pacific North West. Delivery finally happens on Sat 11th July while I’m on a mountain bike vacation I wanted to use the van for (and had already sold my old truck).

I get a text on Monday 13th morning with pictures of the van. The color looks a little off but that could be just cell phone cameras. Also, it has alloy wheels and I ordered steel. And are those fog lights? That wasn’t part of any package I ordered.

I let the dealer know that things looked weird. No response. Maybe it was a nice dealer surprise to say sorry for the van being so late. I arranged to cut my vacation short and drive back to pick up the van on Weds 15th.

On Weds, I arrive with wife and dog, dusty from our trip, and the sales person proudly shows me my new van. Only it isn’t. No suspension seats. No Active Safety package. An alarm system (not much use in the middle of a forest where we camp). A second battery (useless considering I have a LiFePo battery in the garage waiting to go in to the van). Becker GPS (I prefer Google). Wrong color. Wrong (higher) sticker price. Definitely a surprise.

So a conversation ensues. Turns out my van got sold on June 6 or 7. It was “A feeding frenzy” to quote the sales person. In other words, they got above MSRP for it. Probably not very upset not to sell it to me.

Apparently no customer names are assigned to 4x4 orders, so they didn’t think the one that came in was mine. I mean, it’s not like is has a VIN they can check or anything, or that it arrived when mine was due in. **Miraculously**, they had done a dealer trade for this second 4x4, which they thought was mine. Really? They found a similar spec van from California completely by chance without in the slightest realizing that they’d screwed up and needed to make good? Hmmm.

The sales person told me “I would walk away if this happened to me.” I bet he’d like me to do that, because then he could sell this other van for above MSRP too, rather than the below-invoice price that I’m sitting in the dealership for 3 hours negotiating. In fact, he admitted he already had it sold. What’s crazy is that at this point they were STILL trying to highball me, and running the “I’ve got to talk to my manager” game, until I stood up and said I’ll go with the sales person to talk to the sales manager.

I took the van home with me that day (without parting with any money). It's a nice van, but it's not what I ordered. The dealership manager (who was out on Weds) finally called at noon today (Thursday), and was still trying to not lose money on their screw-up. Of all the people who are potential candidates for helping him recoup his losses, I think I'm pretty far down the list. Sales person who sold my van, quite high up that same list. He didn't seem to see it that way.

Giving a dealer a deposit doesn’t appear to constitute a contract. Or even if it does, they don’t care.

I’m not going to name the dealership (yet).

My question is, in my position, what would you do? What would you be happy negotiating as a deal? What would count as compensation?

I am NOT looking for macho responses that are impractical. I don’t find shouting at or threatening dealers to be particularly constructive. I want to know that I haven’t left anything on the table before I give money to a dealership I never want to go near again.

Also, if you bought a 170 4x4 in Blue-Grey somewhere on the West Coast during the first few weeks of June without having put an order in, let me know (PM me). Don't worry - I'm not mad at you, it's an awesome van!

Some more details…
Original order: 170 4x4 Blue-Grey. Xenon, Active Safety, suspension seats, cruise control, hitch, etc. ~$58k MSRP. The list is long because I didn’t choose packages if I could just get the single piece I wanted cheaper. Most of the inside was coming out anyway for a DIY conversion.

Actual van: 170 4x4 Silver Grey, Driver Efficiency (Becker, rear view camera, fog lamps), Premium Appearance (alloys, xenon), Additional Battery, hitch, power outlets, alarm system, overhead control panel, cheapest basic seats, ~$58.5k MSRP. Basically, lots of stuff that looks bling and sells vans on forecourts but has little practical use in a conversion.
 

sprinterryan5

New member
I don't know what I would do, but I would be unhappy. Just having picked up mine, I really like it so far and I guess you would just have to decide the want vs. need and time that it would take to get another.

With that, I'd find a new dealer (which dealer was this?) for a number of reasons you already mentioned above. Also, my salesman was great and told me that another dealer tried to trade and buy my van out from under me as soon as it arrived and showed on the books and he hung up on them. So as I was told, your name is assigned to it. The worst part of the waiting is the lack of updates that the dealers can get.

That sucks, good luck.
 

ranchworld

'06 158 2500 Passenger
Sounds like you spent a great deal of time and energy researching and ordering your dream 4x4 sprinter. You paid almost 60 thousand dollars. You did not get it. I think I would walk away. And name the dealer...
 

surlyoldbill

New member
It's not what you ordered, you gave a deposit. They would lose in court. Because it's not what you ordered, you shouldn't settle for it, despite the long wait. In 6 months there will be many more available.

I would try to negotiate them PAYING YOU to walk away, so they could sell the van for a higher price. Giving all your money back + $10k sounds about right. Or re-order waht you WANT and have them knock $10k additional off the van. Start at $15k and settle for $10k.
 

3mbusa

New member
Quit worrying about the dealer getting away with something (selling the van for a higher price). That is why they are called stealers instead of dealers -- they are experts at the game and do it daily to make a living; you will never out smart them. if it is not the right van for you then back away. You will own the van for a lot longer period of time than it will take you to find the right one. And you will always have sour grapes toward it because it was not exactly what you hoped it would be. Don't be foolish and spend 60 grand on the wrong van just because you thought you had out smarted the experts -- they will stick it to someplace along the line. They are in business to make money, not friends. :2cents:
 
dont buy the wrong van.

i regret not ordering in a van with the few ok few dozen extra s i would have liked.

fyi, the difference between sticker and invoice on MB s is 7 % and they re still making money on hold back.

i got my sprinter at invoice and i got my s class at invoice both less what ever incentives were available.
 

DieselFumes

2015 4x4 2500 170 Crew
@ranchworld, @surlyoldbill, @3mbusa, @hapaschold, Wow - it looks like the overwhelming advice is to walk away.

I was really tempted to walk away but I've spent 10 months planning this build and I have a garage full of components to put in it. The replacement van is sufficiently close that I can just about make it work.

Putting in a new order now would set me back another 6 months minimum. There's an opportunity cost associated with that - basically missing out on using the van for the rest of the summer. I'm trying to approach this without involving my emotional response. It's hard though, because as you know buying a vehicle for personal use has an emotional component.

I also don't want to give the dealer the satisfaction of walking away, I don't trust them to honor any future deal we agreed to now, and I never want to set foot in that dealership again.

I'm going back to talk to them today. I'll post my experiences and either name or not name them at that point.
 

NBB

Active member
Sounds like a crappy dealer.

However, if it were me, I would accept the van as-is and build it the way I wanted starting with what I got. Seems your costs will be a bit higher if you INSIST on a few things I don't think are that important, otherwise I think the practical differences are trivial.

If you INSIST on suspension seats, for example, you might look first at the cost of putting them in there yourself on genuinemercedesparts.com and decide if it's really worth it based on where you are now and how much extra time and money it will take to get them inside the van you think you really wanted directly from the factory. I'd say f' it. Reality here is that what you think you want anyway is based on catalog pages and fantasy, you haven't owned one of these things yet for 100k to know for sure what has value and what is a waste of money. For example, I would say the whole 4x4 thing is a waste of money based on owning 2 4x4 vans for over a decade (in CO, no less), but that's just me.
 

avanti

2014 GWV Legend 3500 I4
I think if it were me, I would (a) ignore the trivial differences and (b) insist that the dealer do a field retrofit of anything practical (seats, for example). Of course, only you can decide what is "trivial".

Not to make your decision more difficult, but if it were me the biggest pain point would be the loss of the Active Safety Package. It is one of my favorite features on our van and I doubt that it can be retrofitted as a practical matter.
 

NBB

Active member
(b) insist that the dealer do a field retrofit of anything practical (seats, for example).
I would find the quickest path to stop interacting with this dealer ASAP. They seem to be causing the OP trouble. It's reasonable to assume that will continue, it always does. This dealer seems adept at putting profit before customer service in their interactions, that will likely continue.

My first rule of dealing with morons ... is to stop dealing with the morons.

If I was unable to perform the changes myself, I would find someone else to do them. It may seem at first like it will cost more - but it probably won't.
 

4-Day

Member
Have you contacted Mercedes Benz at the national level and talk with Customer Service? They helped us out with our warranty issue's. Maybe the same with your issue. It appeared that when the National office called the dealership things changed.
 

surlyoldbill

New member
Yeah, making the dealer install the stuff (if possible) you ordered at NO COST might be an option.

You have a little room to try to "fix" this dilemma, but you shouldn't buy something you don't want. If your trips are mainly biking, you could easily wait another 6 months for the right van to be delivered. Moab isn't rideable until late March, anyway. If you also do wintersports, that's another matter. How are you getting to the hills now?!
 

mindtrip

New member
Moab isn't rideable until late March, anyway.
As a Denverite who goes to Moab and Indian Creek frequently for mountain biking and climbing, I have to politely disagree here. Moab is perfectly rideable in the fall, usually starting in October. Sure, you can't do The Whole Enchilada as the road is usually closed by then and the snows have started on Burro Pass, but you can ride it in September and deal with the heat at the bottom.....

Now back to the question at hand: If it were me, I'd first contact MB National customer service about the issue. I'd probably also consult an attorney, as a previous poster may be right--you might have a valid case in court, which could help you get some kind of satisfaction.

Frankly, your options are 1) roll over and take what they offer, feel pissed for a long time to come, possibly coloring the enjoyment you'd get from van anyway, as the dealer gets off without a care; 2) refuse the van, demand your original order at the original price, possibly have to fight it in court, and even without a fight wait for a new van to be built; or 3) come to some kind of compromise with the dealer, likely starting around the original order and agreed sales price, having them install everything missing that they can install, and getting money back on the things they can't install. And possibly some money back for your trouble and disappointment.

If it were me, I doubt I would accept option 1. I believe you may have legal recourse; at the very least, speaking with an attorney will inform you of your rights, and a letter from an attorney indicating possible legal action should they fail to work with you can sometimes prompt a litigious-avoidant business owner to be more reasonable. Of course that only works if you really do have a valid and enforceable claim, which you very well may have.

Deciding between options 2 and 3 is harder. I agree, I really do love the active safety package on my van, and would be tempted to wait for a new van where it has been fitted. It all comes down to how badly you want it *right now*. If you can delay gratification, you can get exactly what you want--for me, spending $60k on a van and another hefty chunk to do the conversion, I decided that I want what I want and wouldn't be happy with less. If you can comfortably give up features that can't be retrofit, assuming the dealer works with you to arrive at a price and package you're happy with, then maybe option 3 is for you. You might ask them to compensate with some 'freebies'--custom wheels/tires thrown in? Or the secondary alternator to charge your house batteries separately from your engine battery, at 200 amps at idle? They can definitely retrofit that one, and it's pretty handy for boondocking.... If they tried to screw with me more and more to get me to drop it, however, that's likely to push me to go to court and force my claim.

Good luck, let us know how it turns out!
 

DieselFumes

2015 4x4 2500 170 Crew
Thanks for all the well-reasoned replies. I knew you folks would have an **opinion**, but you also came with good **data** which is awesome. I'll be going through and hitting the Thanks button in a second.

Here's where I'm at now. I bought the "replacement" van. I got a good price, I think. The dealer claims he's losing money but I don't think that's true in the longer term after kickbacks, etc. The van sufficiently workable that I'll live with it for a while. I think I'll wait until the North American plant is open and maybe a new body style is introduced before selling this van as a complete conversion and buying a new one. Ford may have a factory 4x4 Transit by then, too.

Suggestions fell into a couple of categories, so I'll try and address each:

Wait for a new van
That was sort-of offered by the dealer. But they're crap. They don't know how to work the system like other dealers who regularly order Sprinters. They don't know much about their product or the options that go on it (and admitted as much). They don't think 2016 4x4 ordering is open yet. And why would I want to subject myself to working with them again?

They even offered to buy this one back when the new one arrived. Thing is, I'll be gluing in Thinsulate, cutting a hole in the ceiling for a fan, and doing several other pretty major modifications. Sure, I could sell this one in a year's time with the conversion already done (rather than selling it back to the dealer) but that's too short a turn-around time to recoup my time investment for the upfit I'll be doing.

Also, like I mentioned before, opportunity cost. I live in the Cascade foothills in WA and bike year-round. I'll be down in Mount Hood area and Moab for sure this year (agree with Mindtrip that Moab is just fine in September/October, and I'm planning on riding The Whole Enchilada). I already sold my Explorer, which I've been using for this type of trip until now. And maybe I'm a wuss, but I've had several experiences with snowy mountain passes where 4x4 has pretty much saved my ass.

Demand they install the packages
A no-go. Tried it. They know, as do you and I, that the aftermarket OEM parts cost is way up there. The whole suspension seat package with lowered pedestals, luxury seats and suspension units costs less as a factory option than one luxury seat on genuinemercedesparts.com. Also, the suspension seat units are not readily available. There is no way that options like Active Safety could be retrofitted even if the mechanic donned lederhosen and sang Bavarian love songs to the Sprinter while they were doing it. Plus, why would I want this dealership to do it?

As an indication of their level of care and attention, the replacement van was destined for California, so it had the front license plate holder deleted from the factory. No problem - two self-tapping screws through the plate and into the front bumper and we're good to go. Yep, I'm sure they're genuine Mercedes self-tapping screws.

The dealer did also offer a discount on parts I ordered from him. I'll repeat, a discount, not at-cost. No thanks, I'll go online instead.

Take them to court
If I finally in a couple of years won my case, I might feel better. In the meantime I wouldn't have a van. I imagine that slimy dealers hire even slimier attorneys, so do I really want to go through that process?

There's some interesting research conducted in VA hospitals which showed that if the hospital admitted mistakes to patients before the patients discovered them themselves, it reduced the incidence of subsequent litigation. In other words, all people really want is an apology. The money's nice too, but it's not often people's primary motivation. I, too, would have felt fine with a genuine apology. I heard "we made a mistake" from the dealer, but did not sense anything in their words or actions which made me think they were really apologetic.

I could take them to court to force them to apologize to me, but I run my own consulting company and I'm pretty sure that I could buy a whole new van with the number of my billable hours that process would take. The dealer knows that and is counting on it, which also makes me pissed, but the recursiveness of the "I know that they know that I know that they know that it's not worth the effort" has to stop somewhere.

Threats
They don't really care about threats such as who I might complain to. However, I do have a little bit of a background in online reputation management, and they might start to care later on if/when I decide to name names.

Contacting MB at a national level doesn't seem to have worked too well for other forum members (I did some searching to see whether it was worth investing time in this approach). This also has the same counterarguments as the legal option.

Compromise
That's the path I took. It wasn't easy doing this. My observation was that the dealership will be nice to you only as much as it helps them to pump money from you. They are completely driven by self-interest. Like 3mbusa said, you will never outsmart them. My impression is that any threats/shouting/posturing are like water off a duck's back.

In the end, I was at exactly 15% below MSRP. I am not happy with that, but I'm accepting it and moving on. The van's a nice color, it has the most essential of the items I wanted, and if I can rip out some of the other options like the second battery and charging relay without causing the whole system to shut down (haven't researched that yet...), I may be able to recoup even a little bit more cash.
 

surlyoldbill

New member
As a Denverite who goes to Moab and Indian Creek frequently for mountain biking and climbing, I have to politely disagree here. Moab is perfectly rideable in the fall, usually starting in October. Sure, you can't do The Whole Enchilada as the road is usually closed by then and the snows have started on Burro Pass, but you can ride it in September and deal with the heat at the bottom.....
Well yeah, it's rideable from March through November...I was thinking if you ordered another one today it would be here by the time Spring riding starts. I might head out there for a week in October. When I lived in Fairplay, I would go almost every weekend in March-June, and again September-November. When Mud Season hit in the mountains, half the ski bum population would relocate to Moab.
 

surlyoldbill

New member
I think you'd WANT the 2nd battery...I would.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
Like 3mbusa said, you will never outsmart them. My impression is that any threats/shouting/posturing are like water off a duck's back.
Not exactly true. They may not know you outsmarted them but when you take your business elsewhere they were outsmarted. If enough people do that they might eventually get the message with lower sales.

The local Sprinter service manager was told that Mercedes did not build my 08 NCV3 Sprinter. I guess their logic was correct because it had Dodge written on it instead of the 3 pointed star. They also stated they could not help with information about my optional diesel heater repair because "we never made a OEM heater so it must have been installed by a third party". Both of the above statements were told to the excellent local Sprinter service manager. Basically no support from Mercedes for the local dealer with troubleshooting information. Local dealer was excellent and was truly trying his best with no information from Mercedes. The fact I had bought vehicle new and had the original window sticker showing the option and the Dodge book explaining each option had no bearing on the discussion. After several months of repeatedly visiting the local dealer asking if he had any further information which he had not, I found a new 2014 "Mercedes" Sprinter on their new car lot with the exact same option that I had on my Sprinter. Escorted the service manager out to the vehicle and suggested he look under the vehicle to confirm that what I had was a heater as installed by Mercedes. He then was convinced. He still did not have any support from Mercedes so had to just throw very expensive parts at it until it finally worked. Cost about $2,000 to repair and the local service manager absorbed some of the labor because "we can not charge for all of it because we are learning as we go". Have nothing but nice things to say about the local (Santa Rosa) service. Best service rep I have ever dealt with. Can not say anything nice about Mercedes. Not how customers should be treated.

I now drive a Transit. Wish the Mercedes service manager would quit Mercedes and go to work for the local Ford dealer. My first dealings with the local Ford dealer made me wish I was dealing with Matt at Mercedes. Besides the toilet facilities and waiting room do not compare and Ford has rot gut coffee compared to individual cup brewed Kerig gourmet coffee with excellent cookies at Mercedes. Dealers are within walking distance so may get Transit serviced at Ford and I will walk down the street for my coffee and cookies. Be a long time before we are even due to the $2,000 to fix a stupid Mercedes bastardized diesel heater. Sorry, I am a bit bitter about how I was treated.
 
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ddunaway

Member
Bummer, I worked with Jim Foster out of Tacoma, WA. He was great and in your area....super straight up. Paid full retail.....remember him saying "not a penny more not a penny less" and this is what it was. Saw another forum member had a good experience with him too......but sounds like you already went with the original dealer.
 
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wmlog

New member
It is unfortunate that you got screwed over by the dealer. but, it sounds like you made the right decision, and for well thought out reasons. I wish you well with your new Sprinter!

MB dealers are not the only dealers to sell vehicles out from under you. Several years ago my brother ordered a loaded up GM SUV, and a loaded up sedan. The SUV arrived at the dealership first, and the dealer sold it to someone else before it got off the truck. When my brother arrived, they were prepping the SUV for the new owner! He was buying them with an employees' discount, so I'm sure the dealer made a more advantageous sale. They then got to find a new owner for the sedan when it arrived, lost a long term customer, and had to pay him a penalty.

When I ordered both my 2008 Dodge and 2014 MB Sprinters I had a deposit on them and my name was right on the window sticker. I could have sold either of them for a few grand more than I paid as soon as I took delivery.

When I ordered my 2014 Sprinter, the salesman screwed up and didn't order the electric heated windshield as I had specified, although he supposedly went over the order several times. When I pressed the issue, the salesman found other employment (for various reasons), and the dealer ultimately refunded me what the option would have cost and did the first A service for free. Unfortunately, I got pretty much what I paid for with the free A service, and they then gave me a $50 discount of the first B service, which they then screwed up worse than the A service!

Most Sprinter dealers (and Sprinter salesmen) don't have a clue how to order a custom Sprinter. You have to assume that responsibility, and then stay on top of your order.

... It's not that I don't trust them, it's just that I can't keep my eye on them all the time!

:bash:
 
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3mbusa

New member
Diesel,

Where will you get your authorized Mercedes Sprinter warranty work done? Not all Mercedes dealers are authorized Sprinter service facilities. Was the selling dealer (stealer) in the Seattle metro area -- there are at least four dealerships in the metro area plus one near the Canadian boarder for a total of five in Washington that I know of. Having bought five Mercedes vehicles while I lived in Washington I have had dealings with four of the five plus one in Portland, OR and another in Boise, ID. Of these dealerships I only had favorable experience with three. Maybe I can give you some first hand insight? :thumbup:
 

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