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A sales representative’s car is virtually his second living room. I use my car not only to travel from A to B but also as the place where I do a lot of my work, as well as spending many lunch breaks in it. I have a very special relationship with my car. Today I’d like to tell you the story of how we’ve traveled 1,000,000 kilometers together.
I’ve been working in sales for more than 30 years. Of course my job requires me to do a lot of business-connected driving in my car. To be precise, my professional and private car trips taken together add up to between 50,000 and 60,000 kilometers per year. During the last 28 ½ years I’ve been driving Mercedes-Benz cars. But I haven’t traded in my cars for the latest model every few years — no — during this entire time I’ve owned exactly two cars with the star.
How it began: Let’s see how far we can get
My first car was a Mercedes 190 diesel with a five-gear transmission. I bought it in 1989, when it was one year old and had 22,000 kilometers on the odometer. We parted ways in 2003 when it developed engine trouble, at which point it had driven a total of 925,000 kilometers. In the early 1990s it had served as the wedding car when my brother got married.
In spite of the engine trouble, this mileage was very impressive, so I decided that my next car would also be a Mercedes. This time I bought a four-cylinder E220 CDI. As soon as I got into it for a test drive, I knew immediately that “This is it!”
The car had been initially registered in October 2000, and when I bought it in 2003 it had been driven for 133,000 kilometers. Many people would consider this mileage a reason to get rid of the car, but my motto was
Let’s see how far we can get!
For me this car was pure luxury. Unlike its predecessor, it had not only an airbag but also air conditioning on board — just in time for the start of the “super summer” of 2003, when we sometimes had temperatures of more than 40°C.
By now we’ve traveled 867,000 kilometers together, and because of my various moves I’ve had to change my license plates four times. If I divide this number by a realistic average speed of 65 km/h, I get 13,339 hours. In other words, I’ve spent approximately a year and a half driving this car.
What’s more, if I were to stack up all the business cards I’ve found stuck behind my windshield wiper during all these years, I would have a tower about half a meter tall recording the telephone numbers of all the people who have expressed an interest in buying my car.
Reaching a million
On the way to a million kilometers, you can celebrate many milestones such as the hundreds of thousands, as well as other interesting numbers. I wasn’t always able to make snapshots of them, but I do have a few memories.
In some cases they are memories of sad occasions, such as the 600,000-kilometer mark I reached in October 2010 as I was driving to my mother’s funeral. But there were also happy occasions, for example when my odometer read 911,000 kilometers and I made a souvenir photo of it for my friends. The subject line of my e-mail was:
“Now I’m driving a 911 model!”
In May 2018 my Benz and I not only celebrated our fifteenth anniversary but were also expecting to celebrate another big day — on May 15, very appropriately, we were going to leap into the hyperspace of one million Kilometers!
I was very excited as I made the first photos of my odometer showing 999,999 kilometers. I turned into a side street, whipped out my mobile-phone camera, and…nothing happened! Ever since then, my odometer has stubbornly remained stuck at 999,999 kilometers. The engineers at Daimler had apparently not foreseen this possibility.
Incidentally, this photograph is the current background image on my laptop.
Through ups and downs
It’s certainly worth mentioning that this car is still running not only on its first engine but also its first (automatic) transmission and its first turbocharger. During this entire time, I’ve only had to be towed twice: once with a damaged radiator and another time with a malfunctioning turbocharger.
Wilfried Reichle and his team from 1a Autohaus Reichle in Frickingen-Altheim were always there for me. For the past ten years and 500,000 kilometers I’ve trusted them to give my car the best of care.
Incidentally, the car also still has its first driver’s seat. And no — I’ve never had any slipped discs. My back is doing very well, thank you. Many years ago, we learned during a seminar how to sit properly in an automobile. You have to sit in the upright position, just as you would in an airplane when it’s coming in to land. Initially this took some getting used to, but it has turned out to be absolutely the right advice.
Of course I regularly get exercise, and I’m sure that this has had a positive effect on my health. In my old 190 model I had driven 900,000 kilometers in the same driver’s seat, only changing the protective covers regularly.
I believe that keeping my car in good running order is a form of sustainability. The extent of the repairs has been minimal, and my fuel consumption is phenomenally low. I used to like stepping on the gas a bit now and then (up to 233 km/h, according to the speedometer), but today, out of respect for its high mileage, I tend to take it easy (without dawdling) and I sometimes can drive more than 1,000 kilometers on a full 65-liter tank of gas.
Until TÜV do us part
Many years ago, I read a good motto that was hanging on the wall at the premises of one of my customers.
The gist of it was
What counts is not the package but its contents.
The motto referred to people, and after my long career as a sales representative I completely agree with it. But I’d also like to apply it to my Mercedes.
My car’s certification from TÜV, the German technical inspection association, still has one year to go. Then we’ll see whether it’s still in good shape. Until then, I’m enjoying every kilometer that my reliable Mercedes E220CDI travels as it brings me safely from A to B.
With this in mind, I’m now about to step into my supercar, turn on its purring motor, and take off.
P.S.: With regard to the odometer that got stuck at 999,999 kilometers, I’ve had an idea: Perhaps the software could be switched to miles. In that case, I could make a second try at reaching 1,000,000 miles — and after I’ve accomplished that, I can retire.