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Whilst it would probably be fair to say that you don’t tend to order motor cars online (the shopping basket isn’t big enough), the Internet provides a massive resource for selecting a car and making an informed buying decision. When you’re spending thousands of pounds, you want to make the right choice, so many hours could be spent browsing through the major manufacturers’ home pages. A company’s web site is truly a reflection of its status and brand, so for Mercedes Benz one might expect a site that is a cut above the rest. For the purposes of this opinion, I have focused on the motor car section of the site, but readers should be advised that there are also sections for Mercedes Vans and Trucks.
The Home Page ===========
The home page loads up quite quickly, but is a disappointingly bland affair. A simple selection of menu options sit in a transparent bar at the top of the page, with an option to select pages from a scroll down menu at the top right hand side of the screen. There is a distinct lack of colour here – even the photography of the new A class models shows the cars in silver and I have to say that as a web site this is extremely uninspiring at face value.
Model Range & Showroom ====================
An extremely simple, user friendly method of browsing through each of the models available. The model range is divided into eight main types:
Hatchbacks; Saloons; Estates; Cabriolet; Coupes; MPV; Off Roader; AMG
And by hovering over the menu option for each type, you are presented with further sub-menu options to take you to a specific range of vehicles. Mercedes cars are generally defined within classes – none of their cars have names – so within each type there are a number of different classes, according to the cost, and specification of the vehicle. I like the format used by the site to catalogue each
of the models – it is very easy to find what you are looking for without browsing through hundreds of pages of options. Once you have found the model and class you are after, simply click the menu option and your information will be presented to you.
The web site offers a considerable amount of detail which, as you might expect, is arranged tastefully within carefully selected lifestyle photography. You can quickly identify whom the site is trying to target within each model and range. For each model and class you are presented with a menu of information options:
Overview – will give you a broad outline of the model you have selected, indicating the key features and plus points of the vehicle. Most Mercedes vehicle classes are available as Classic, Elegance or Avantgarde models according to the specification, and basic information about the interior and exterior of each is contained within the overview.
Features – provides more detailed information about the vehicles’ design, comfort, safety systems and security. A simple system of linked menus with graphics amply illustrates this information without blinding you with science.
Compare – by drilling down further into this section you can complete a detailed comparison of different models within the class. This enables a truly informed buying decision as you can see in detail what equipment one model offers over another. Technical data may also be compared to examine the dimensions of the car and its performance and you can even compare the paint and upholstery options. The emphasis throughout is on concise, easy to use information presented in a simple layout – it’s all very effective, and is certainly one of the best motoring web sites I have used.
Gallery – is the online version of the car brochure, with various shots of your selected model in various poses.
My only criticism of this section of the web site is that it can be accessed through either the Model Range or the Showroom menu options – I would suggest that only one option is actually required.
Retail Network ===========
This is a simple search engine that will enable you to find your nearest dealership. The company closely regulates Mercedes dealerships – more so than any other franchise – and you can expect very similar standards and identical pricing wherever you choose to visit. In selecting your dealership, you can either search for specific names or scroll through a listing. You can also search for your nearest dealership by specifying a catchment area against your postcode. Sadly, when I tried this option the site returned an error message.
Used Cars =======
Mercedes Benz offers an affiliated used car dealership system called Signature. Those dealerships that operate under the Signature scheme follow a strict code of practice that means you are guaranteed to purchase a vehicle that has been checked thoroughly by Mercedes technicians. A vehicle history check will also have been completed, and 12 months roadside assistance is also offered. Used cars come with at least 9 months MOT, full service history, an approved certificate of mileage and a 12-month warranty. It is clearly the intention of the company to offer a secure, reliable used car network – though I would recommend caution against not undertaking independent inspections. All the Signature benefits have limitations, and you should never take anything for granted.
Through the web site you can carry out a detailed search for a used Mercedes specifying the range, class, fuel type, model and price range – you can even request specific options such as air conditioning and alloy wheels. The listings are comprehensive, although relatively slow to load on screen and there is obviously no guarantee that the exact model you want will be available. The benefit of this system of course, is that it enables the user to receive a national picture at a glance and so you can easily locate your desired model. Each of the search results can be selected, and presented in it’s own pop up box with a link to the dealership website and/or contact details.
It is very robust process and an impressively professional set up in general.
Financial Services =============
As part of the all round basket of tools to enable you to purchase your vehicle, it is therefore logical that Mercedes will also offer finance packages. Detailed information about all options is contained here – and there are a considerable number of options available. The site provides a “Decision Tree” that guides you through a simple process of identifying which option suits you. Mercedes also offer insurance and credit cards and all the details of these products are laid out in simple, logical menus as per the car model details.
As part of the all round buying experience, you can also use the web site for your existing Mercedes. This section has a menu of information options for purchasing gifts and accessories, as well as arranging a service – yet all the options are essentially links to the dealership locator. It all seems rather pointless to me – I was expecting an online catalogue of products.
Contact Us ========
Details of the general enquiries contact telephone numbers as well as an online link to order brochures. I was surprised to find that the brochures I ordered arrived within a week – normally such facilities are slow or non existent, so another plus point for Mercedes here.
This is generally a very impressive web site – the layout is simple, logical and fast without gimmicks or unnecessary graphics. This is not an inspiring site, but the detail of information offered is excellent, and is exactly in line with what I would expect.