Mercedes-Benz Manhattan: A Time to make Friends

The first ball sped toward us from the side without any warning, barely missing us. Before we could see what game was being played, a second ball flew toward us and hit. Not us, however — it was another pedestrian who was just then walking toward us.

The man seemed to briefly consider whether to file a lawsuit for millions of dollars in damages, as people in the USA often do, but instead he just shook his head and went on walking. My companions looked me quizzically. Well, what could I tell them? Before we left home, I had sworn to all of them that Manhattan is absolutely safe. And now this.

Three men stand before the canyons of houses of Manhattan.

After all, we four men (yes, entirely alone and without any women to protect us) were simple tourists who just wanted to see a few sights in New York City. And now we were being bombarded by these white balls. We were on the West Side, but certainly not in the Wild West. So, what game was being played here? It was an easy question. Someone was playing baseball, and baseballs were speeding toward our heads. That was odd, but it made sense.

There’s a baseball diamond right across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Manhattan showroom, and the players were whacking the poor balls with all their might. And when they hit, things — including the ball — really move. Sometimes even over the fence — then it’s probably a home run. And if a spectator catches the ball, he’s allowed to keep it. That’s right! And that’s how we four German tourists became the proud owners of an American baseball.

Ein

But why?

…were we so close to a baseball diamond in the first place? That too is an easy question. When I’m in the USA, I like to go to Mercedes showrooms and look around a bit. I enjoy chatting with my American colleagues, and many of them are surprised when I tell them I’m a colleague of theirs from Germany. Today I was accompanied by two friends and my son, and I was acting as the NYC guide for our small group of explorers. Could I have flown home with a clear conscience if I hadn’t taken my team to see this highlight? No way! After all, what would a trip to New York City be without a visit to Mercedes-Benz Manhattan? Well? You see what I mean.

Mercedes-Benz Manhattan

During the few days we had already spent in New York, we had already seen quite a lot of this fantastic city. If you’ve ever been there, you know that there’s really a lot to see. But I’m a huge Mercedes fan, so I felt I had to come back once more to this magical place on 11th Avenue. After all, it had been a couple of years since my last visit. The sun was shining, and I was standing before the door of the big showroom. Why was I hesitating? I had no idea. So in I went.

Mercedes-Benz Manhattan from the inside. One Mercedes is suspended from ropes, another stands in front of the glass front.

G500 (Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 12,1-11,5 l/100 km; CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert: 276-263 g/km)

Inside, I was greeted by the atmosphere I knew so well. It was a slightly homey feeling. All around me were cool cars with the star. The two friendly women sitting at the reception desk were looking at me expectantly. I admit that I probably don’t look like the typical Mercedes customer from New York, so, just to be on the safe side, I briefly introduced myself: “Hi, I’m H.D. from Germany,” rather than “Hi, I’m Hans-Dieter from Germany.” My companions initially said nothing (yet), but I suppose that my son, who was standing behind me, was rolling his eyes.

One of the women stood up, came over to me, shook my hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Tata from Manhattan.” My self-presentation had worked. My evening-school English course had already paid off. Tata and I got along very well from the very first moment, and I realized why: Tata is the brand ambassador of Mercedes-Benz Manhattan. Wow! I was really impressed. Meeting her was a stroke of luck. I’d never go so far as to call myself the Mercedes-Benz ambassador from Bremen (though I sometimes feel like one), but to me it meant we were absolutely on the same wavelength. It was a great feeling.

While we took our time looking around (and making lots of photos), Tata went off to see if she could find a few stray license plate frames lying around in this American temple to Mercedes-Benz. Tata was incredibly nice, and her search was successful. She came back with a beaming smile and two original Mercedes-Benz Manhattan license plate frames. I was thrilled, and I thanked her profusely.

An original Mercedes-Benz Manhattan license plate

E300 (Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert 7.9 l/100km; CO₂-Emissionen kombiniert 181.0 g/km)

Have I already mentioned that I collect U.S. license plates and store them in frames like these? Now there was one more happy person in Manhattan. Me! But then some dark clouds slid in front of the sun. I realized that we had simply burst in here, drunk their delicious coffee and felt right at home, without bringing them anything in return. That wasn’t right. So I made an appointment with Tata for our group to look in on her briefly the next day and bring her a small token of our appreciation.

The next day

On the following day, we showed up again. Tata greeted us as though we were old friends, and before we knew it we were being taken on an exclusive tour of the Mercedes-Benz Manhattan showroom. Because unused space is very limited in Manhattan (it’s an island, after all), the tour could only take us up or down.

Two men standing in the workshop of Mercedes-Benz Manhattan. They point to a pillar on which "Welcome to Mercedes-Benz Manhattan" is written.

In our case, it took us to the basement. The heart of this company lies under the grand showroom. This is where the workshop and the parking spaces for the cars are located. Once again, I was thrilled. This is the workplace of the auto mechanics, complete with lifting platforms. Hanging above each work station is a big sign with the name of the mechanic and since when he or she has been working here for Mercedes. Yes, “she” — because one of them is a woman. Each employee is responsible for his or her workstation.

Our cars were standing all over the basement, and of course some of them were special editions. There was a smart from the New York Police Department — the NYPD, a diplomat’s Maybach, and a rare SLR. Tata told us that the tiny and agile smart is very popular with the policemen. As I’ve mentioned, in this metropolis the parking spaces are very limited. She added that people would like to switch to the electric variant, but the problem of how to charge the batteries has still not been definitively solved.

Smart from the NYPD (New York Police Department)

The miracle of Manhattan

We moved further and further into this inner sanctum, and then I got the surprise of my life. We walked around a corner, and suddenly I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had just finished proudly telling Tata that this year we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of our plant in Bremen.

I was even wearing my T-shirt commemorating the anniversary, which bears a picture of the crew bus S123, with which we laid the foundation stone of our car production plant in Bremen 40 years ago. And now one of these crew buses was standing before me. I freaked out! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A few weeks before that I had attended a special event in Germany.

Mercedes crewbuses are fairly rare in the U.S. in general, but on top of that, here was one of the first ones produced in the Bremen plant. Right here in Manhattan! I gradually calmed down to the point where I could once again speak clearly. And now the story received its final twist: My little gift for Tata was a keychain with the silhouette of a S123 crew bus from Bremen. The circle had been closed. But where was the hidden camera? Sometimes it’s the small events in life that add up to something really special. In any case, this tiny episode made me very happy.

Old S123 crew bus in the workshop of Mercedes-Benz Manhattan

My home

A few lifting platforms later, we met John. I was told that John was the boss of the workshop. And he was really proud of that! It was a great feeling. We chatted briefly. I told him about the plant in faraway Bremen, and he told me about his home. He said that this workshop is his home. He has a second home, the one where his family lives, but he feels that this is his real home. I respect that feeling.

Then John fetched something and gave it to Tata. Oh, wow! I sensed that something was going on. The day before, I had seen a beautiful “Manhattan” logo on one of the cars, right next to the license plate. It goes without saying that I wanted one too. It would look so cool on my Mercedes! Tata came over to us, and with a big smile she handed my son and me a small “Manhattan” logo! I thought the day couldn’t get any more dramatic.

Hans-Dieter Wuttke and Tata embrace in front of a Mercedes-Benz

But in fact, one more thing happened that day. When we were taking photographs, my son made a photo of Tata and me. Tata posted it on her Instagram account, and my son immediately sent it home to my wife. Her answer came promptly from Germany: “You didn’t have to put your arm around her. It would’ve been enough to just stand next to her. Someone’s been fairly reckless, just because he’s a few thousand kilometers away from home!” Incidentally, a short time later Tata posted a photo of herself with Lewis Hamilton. He had not been as reckless as me. Mercedes-Benz Manhattan!

See you,

Hans-Dieter Wuttke (HDW)


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Hans-Dieter Wuttke works at the plant in Bremen. He enjoys to write about travel, "his" plant and his daily experiences at the Waterkant.