Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.   

Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE  Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).


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(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 

Images Of Excellence, Quality & Service

Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Cadillac. Hearing those names evokes images of excellence, quality and service. Or do they?

Although we offer many different carlines for sale, only in the past two years have we been carrying the Mercedes nameplate. This week, the service experience we encountered with the Mercedes dealer did not exactly bring the images of excellence, quality and service to mind.

It all started a few weeks ago when we purchased a 2001 Mercedes C230 4dr sedan with just over 12,000 miles. This particular car is loaded including the Mercedes "Command" system that utilizes the driver's voice to activate and control functions like radio, navigation and telephone. During a test drive of this vehicle I noticed that the passengers front power seat would make some forward and rearward adjustments on its own. It was as if someone was sitting there fooling with the seat controls while I was driving down the road. The only other odd thing I found was that the keyless entry transmitter would not always unlock or lock the doors. It too seemed to have a mind of its own. Knowing the car is fully covered by the Mercedes bumper to bumper 48 month / 50,000 mile warranty, I decided to call the local Mercedes dealer. (Not exactly local as they are 35 minutes away). I called the service manager there as they had serviced our cars in the past. We agreed on a date that would be mutually convenient. As in the past the service manager made the same odd request: "Make sure the car does not have any of your dealership logos on it or any window stickers." I was familiar with this request since the manager had mentioned it the last time we brought them a Mercedes to service under warranty. "Doesn't go over well with the management," he mentioned. Anyway, I made sure the car did not have any of our Giammalvo decals or window stickers. When our two employees arrived there on the morning of the appointment, no one in the dealership service department knew about the appointment. One of our employees even called me from the dealership to ask if I was sure I had the correct day. I told my driver to ask for the service manager since he is the one I had spoken to for the appointment on this day. After some confusion, the manager "found" the appointment. My drivers left the car there and came back in our service van. I did not think much about the Mercedes until a few days had past. I thought is was odd that I had not received a call to say the car was completed. Our service advisor called the dealership but the service manager did not return the call. Finally, after four days had elapsed with no news, I called. I left a message but the service manager did not return my call so I called again on the fifth day. I finally got the service manager. I asked him what was going on with our car. He told me there was "a little problem." What could it be, I wondered? Well, apparently one of the owners of the dealership was out front when our employee pulled up and got out of the Mercedes in our uniform. Why would that cause a concern, I wondered? (Must I strip the uniforms of our logos too?) What the heck is going on? Although the service manager could not give me a direct answer, he alluded to the fact that the owners do not like servicing cars from other dealers. As a result he tries to "slip" our cars in without the owners knowledge, hence all the "no decal" requirements.  Now that the dealership owner knew our car was there, he told the service manger to put our car "on the back burner."  Finally, after being their 11 days, the service manager called me to say the car was done. Again, he had another odd request:  "you must pick the car up now."  I asked him if he was kidding. After all, it was 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and my drivers were all out on errands for the day.  Why should I have to rush and get the car? Heck, it's been there for nearly two weeks, might as well wait until Monday now. He told me that the owners had left for the weekend and it would really help him out if we picked the car up while they were gone. Again I asked why. What's the rub to the owner now?  After all, he's been looking at the car for 11 days, he knows it's there. What difference is  waiting another few days going to make? Again, no direct answers. Needless to say, I rounded up two drivers to go retrieve the car.

Well, in the end I don't know what the big deal was. Kind of a jealousy thing I guess. They get paid for the warranty work from the factory. Their own internal Mercedes warranty procedures mandate that they honor the Mercedes warranty as a prerequisite for maintaining their franchise agreement. Oh well, I just think its amazing that in this day an age, and especially given the Mercedes brand, that these games go on and on.

It is interesting to note that the warranty invoice came back inside a nice Mercedes leaflet signed by the service manager. The leaflet stated:  "Our entire Service Department is committed to provide you with the service you expect and deserve. As part of our Signature Service commitment to excellence, we personally endorse the quality of the services we have performed. "

UPDATE:  After researching Mercedes Benz on the internet recently, I was amazed to see the amount of dissatisfied owners out their with their own web sites ( The amount of owners that have written their own Mercedes Benz ownership horror stories on these sites is truly mind boggling. I was also stunned to read the way the owners were talked down to by dealership personnel. I believe that Mercedes will have to change there customer service polices in order to survive in this new automotive market. Lexus and Acura's quality continues to be untouchable and I don't see anywhere near the amount of dealership complaints. Unfortunately, for Mercedes Benz, I think the damage is done. I do not believe that they can recover from the poor handling of these customers. Like Cadillac had to do after the bad engines and poor quality of the 1980's, Mercedes will have to market to whole new generation of buyers. 


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