The loyal customer: 50 years of Mercedes-Benz

My relationship with Mercedes-Benz has lasted longer than some marriages. This year makes it all of 50 years. But unlike in a fixed relationship, I’ve changed my partner now and again — and reached a grand total of 20 cars. And who knows whether my passion for Mercedes-Benz will get me involved with even more models.

My story as a loyal customer commenced in 1968, as I was posted to the German DDG liaison staff USA as a technical official. I ordered my first Mercedes in Stuttgart and picked it up at Boston Harbor. It was a Mercedes /8 Model. Shortly before my return to Germany, I converted its windshield and headlamps to US standards and sold it.

In August 1970 I returned to Kiel, and within two days of my arrival in Germany I picked up my second Mercedes /8 at the factory in Stuttgart. Most of the documents from my car purchases from Mercedes have been lost due to my frequent moves. But I reckon there were up to 20 vehicles.

Brand loyalty

I’ve stayed true to the brand, but not to the places where I’ve ordered and bought the cars. Wilhelmshaven, Emden, Hamburg, from Gruma in Oschatz, and from the Lüske company in Cloppenburg — incidentally, that’s where I still get my cars serviced today.

I bought my first wagon in Wilhelmshaven in 1978. Followed by several 123 and 124 models and the E-Class wagon. Then the GLK came on the scene. I drove two GLK models, starting straight away.

Retirement with the camper van

Along with my car, I also acquired a HYMER S 665 with an 88 hp 5-cylinder engine. I celebrated my retirement with it under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and finally made it as far as Alaska.

As if that weren’t enough, after the turn of the millennium, it was followed by a HYMER S 700 on a Sprinter chassis, which took me throughout Europe.

Highlight with breakdown

My passion for camper vans wound down in 2012. Instead, I hit the high point of my car buying with two new Mercedes-Benz on one day. There was an A-Class 160 CDI for my wife and an R 300 CDI for me.

That was the vehicle in which I experienced the only breakdown during all of my 50-year relationship Mercedes-Benz. We were driving from East Tyrol over the Alps when my car’s alarm system went off of its own accord and provided us with a nerve-racking ride. So nerve-racking that my wife started singing in time with the siren. Passing through Holzkirchen with sleet coming down, the windshield wipers packed in too.

A very competent Mercedes employee then located the culprit — a switch in the hood mounting. He didn’t have the right switch in stock, so he took the switch out of his own C-Class to help me out. The replacement switch cost eight euros.

Loyalty pays off

Thanks to my bookkeeping, I was able to prove to a colleague that a Mercedes-Benz customer ends up paying less than someone who buys other brands. He drives a Volvo, and told me:

Mr Ahrens, you’ve got the star in your eyes!

He probably wasn’t far off the mark.

I’ve clocked up more than 100,000 kilometers just at Christmas on my way from the North Sea and the Baltic heading south to East Tyrol to go skiing. And that’s with my four daughters and my wife on board. With snow chains, but no dents or accidents. Today, I’m enjoying the comfort of a 2012 R-Class 300 CDI with air suspension. And I will remain true to my years of loyalty.

This text was written by Wolfgang Ahrens. Until his retirement he worked as a marine engineer for the German navy in Washington D.C.; Bath, Maine, USA; in Bonn and Hamburg; and repeatedly in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel. In his final years of service, he headed the Navy Arsenal on the Kieler Förde. As the father of four daughters he has always valued reliable and practical cars. That’s why he drove various wagons for 25 years.