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Old 4th December 2015, 04:11   #1
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Default Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

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2 Merc W220 S Class' abandoned

I could have posted this in the "Imports gathering dust" thread - but more than pics, I wanted to get a discussion going on around how difficult it is to maintain a used imported or high end luxury car. We have often seen ads on Classifieds of high end luxury cars being sold at throw away prices after a few years - main reason being upgrading to the new model. It's a good opportunity for those who couldn't afford those cars when new due to the high price tag. But very much affordable when the car has completed around half a decade and lost more than 50% of its value. It's a steal at that price. However many fail to take into consideration the risk in purchasing these cars - cost / availability of spares, good workshops etc and eventually the car is neglected, left around in a corner or is gathering dust on a garage or a parking lot.

It's sad to see any car being scrapped but more so when it is a high end luxurious import. I believe most of the high end imports (especially German) end up being scrapped after a decade. You name any German luxury car and it is being scrapped or left to rot somewhere in the city. The most common cars left to rot are the Merc's and the BMWs. Right from the 3/C and all the way upto the 7/S - there is one rotting around somewhere.

And more than the first owner abandoning the car, I feel the subsequent owners who have picked them up at the throw away prices and are not able to afford the high maintenance associated with these cars. Is t that difficult to maintain an imported car? What are the common problems faced by most imported cars? (Have heard a lot of stories of Mercs air suspension)? Would want to hear stories from bhpians who have had experiences in owning a used import or heard of any other bad experiences.

Related Thread (Pics: Imports gathering dust in India)

Last edited by GTO : 5th December 2015 at 14:52. Reason: Adding link to the imports gathering dust thread :)
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Old 4th December 2015, 11:31   #2
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Default re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

Yup, buying now seems easier than maintaining the car in the long run. I recently was discussing this with one of my friends - who intended to buy an Audi. However, the major spoiler for him was the after-sales service cost. I do understand that spare parts, and all, will be expensive due to the import related costs coming into play. Labor charges would be high too, due to the car specific skills needed. It seems that a normal Audi servicing visit can cost around INR 80K to 1L/year for an Audi - not sure if this is reality Waiting to be enlightened here
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Old 4th December 2015, 12:20   #3
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Default re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

With most high-end imports (including the 2 S-Class in your picture), the problem is, once they age, repairs cost a whole lot more than their resale / book value.

Just to give you an example, you can get a good W220 S-Class for 5 lakhs. However, it's repair costs won't be comparable to other 5 lakh cars. Rather, the parts will be more in the line of a 1 crore car. Other than fast moving items, parts aren't available off the shelf either.

Now, on a car that has a value of 5 lakhs, would you spend 3 - 4 lakhs on its air suspension? Or 2 lakhs on repairing the air-conditioner? A major gearbox failure will cost you many lakhs too, and lets not even talk of engine overhaul.

Another problem is that high-end Europeans aren't reliable. This is especially the case as they age. They are loaded with gizmos & electronics making repair difficult. From the owners point of view, why throw good money after bad? That's why you'll see more of abandoned Germans than say, a Toyota Landcruiser.

The owners of these cars are very loaded & have no time. To them, 6 lakh rupees is loose change. It's easy to see why the W220s in your post are abandoned. Their owners are perhaps enjoying a W222 S500 right now.
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Old 4th December 2015, 13:17   #4
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

There was a time when the #1 reason for people to buy the merc's was the reliability they offered. I am talking about >15 years back. Merc because these were the one's which were widely available in India, as compared to say the BMW/Audi. They had much more reliability than the PAL's, Amby's and you wouldn't see them in a breakdown in the middle of the road. They gave a peace of mind and people spent their millions on them for this.

Now the game has changed completely. These rate the lowest in reliability index. High end Electronics (to stay competitive in the market) screwed their reliability big time. You will still find a 15-20 year old merc driven around and working perfectly, but be assured, the modern breed will not see the light of the road once they are 10 year old. A 5 lakh rupee car is now more reliable than these Germans.

I just so love the mechanical way of things, rather than the electronic we see nowadays. Mechanical's were simple to check, easier to evaluate and simpler to rectify.
But alas there is no going back.

If I had to go on a 2000 km trip and had a Swift/Punto and a German luxury (5/E), both of 5 year vintage, I would most probably take the Swift/Punto and leave the German in the garage.

In a nutshell, nowadays, Luxury comes at the cost of reliability.

Last edited by vinit.merchant : 4th December 2015 at 13:24.
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Old 4th December 2015, 13:27   #5
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

I always wondered how hard was it to maintain an imported in India before liberalization of the Indian Economy in the 1990s? or even a decade back?

If you had to have it regularly serviced where would you go? Where would the parts come from? and who would have the knowledge to service it?

There are so many imported cars in the vintage cars threads, I always wondered how they were maintained all these decades when they were never sold or serviced in India.

This question has remained with me since 1996, when my family moved from the US to Lucknow and despite my strong convincing my dad refused to bring our Nissan to India saying parts would not be available.
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Old 4th December 2015, 14:26   #6
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by v12 View Post
Attachment 1446669

2 Merc W220 S Class' abandoned
Such a sad sight to see two beauties rotting abandoned. Scavengers have even taken a wiper and the Mercedes badge away, which we may find in the "weird and wacky modification" thread on some Alto or an Indica.

This thread actually is the justification of how important is after sales and running cost affordability for a car in India.
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Old 4th December 2015, 15:50   #7
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

There are many aspects to this.

Cost - GTO has clearly articulated.

Knowledge/ Software. Taking the sick w220's case The air suspension, can be rebuilt from reconditioned units in the US. The issue is setting is up requires access to Mercedes STAR system and that is the specialist job.

Unaware of the Alternatives Sources - People do not think outside the dealer network, Not everyone knows where to go outside the dealer to get spares. The assurance that it is the right one is an issue

Unaware of Alternative Solutions - I dont always mean jugaad. Alluding to the the air suspended Mercs. One can fit normal steel springs instead.

Poor Diagnosis - Our mechanics are poor in this. Sometimes the causes are simple. I know of a Porsche with a sick engine. The new owner (who spends more than the value of the car in resting them) used common sense to repair them
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Old 4th December 2015, 16:51   #8
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

One thing you need with the newer Germans is a lot of time. Parts are available in other parts of the Globe and can be sourced over the net. There are a few Private Dealers in Mumbai and Kerala who can source any part for you. Also I heard that a lot of Germans in the Gulf are being taken apart for their parts, so reconditioned parts would also be available. Private Garages who cater to Skodas, Accords and Volkswagens would be able to take care of most of the things that could go wrong with a German

The real problem I find with the Germans is that they are like a chained elephant. You dare not take them far away from a Metropolis. They are easy to maintain in a Metropolis but if you get stuck outside a Metro while on a trip, then your only option would be calling for a flat-bed truck

Having said that, nothing can beat the feeling of cruising down the city streets in a luxo-barge. You might want to buy one if it is only for city use and you are not averse to using Public Transport on the odd day

Last edited by TheARUN : 4th December 2015 at 16:58.
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Old 4th December 2015, 19:32   #9
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

I feel with the right contacts and people, an old German car can be kept alive and kicking and in fact be used daily.

My aunt has W203 C220 CDI and she has stopped giving to Merc authorized service station since some time and gets all work done outside yet her car is in tip top condition. So it is not entirely impossible to maintain a german old car only on independent garages.
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Old 5th December 2015, 11:30   #10
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

I think the key to buying a used import is research. If one does a robust background check into the car they are buying it could be a calculated risk. There is plenty of information available on the internet on various forums that will tell you the typical problems of every car model and it's variant. If your read about major and expensive parts frequently failing with age such as air suspension, transmission, etc then stay away!
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Old 5th December 2015, 14:46   #11
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vinit.merchant View Post
There was a time when the #1 reason for people to buy the merc's was the reliability they offered.
Ah, you speak of the time of the W124s, W126s and the simply indestructible W123s. Mark my words, 50 years from now, there will be more W124s in running condition than W212s.

Quote:
I just so love the mechanical way of things, rather than the electronic we see nowadays. Mechanical's were simple to check, easier to evaluate and simpler to rectify.
. Can you imagine restoring a 30 year old W222 S-Class? It would have like 20,000 meters of wiring!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxbat View Post
I always wondered how hard was it to maintain an imported in India before liberalization of the Indian Economy in the 1990s? or even a decade back?
Very difficult. Dad used to own a W111 and was forced to ask relatives to carry back even simple stuff like wiper blades when they were travelling abroad. Mechanical talent was hard to find as well.

Quote:
There are so many imported cars in the vintage cars threads, I always wondered how they were maintained all these decades when they were never sold or serviced in India.
Buy parts yourself online - the world is a smaller place now - and have access to a great garage. The only reason vintage car owners devote so much time & $$$ to their rides is the passion. It can get frustrating sometimes, but the pleasure of seeing your old girl purring away smoothly is unmatched by any other.

Quote:
Originally Posted by saion666 View Post
This thread actually is the justification of how important is after sales and running cost affordability for a car in India.
And reliability. You won't see year 2003 Landcruisers or Pajeros rotting away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheARUN View Post
One thing you need with the newer Germans is a lot of time. Parts are available in other parts of the Globe and can be sourced over the net.
How many rich folk who can afford an S-Class have time? Time is the most valuable resource for millionaires.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kisharchit View Post
My aunt has W203 C220 CDI and she has stopped giving to Merc authorized service station since some time and gets all work done outside yet her car is in tip top condition. So it is not entirely impossible to maintain a german old car only on independent garages.
The W203 C-Class was simpler than the high-end imports we're talking about here. No air suspension, as an example. Simple 4-cylinder engines too.

Here's an example of an unreliable car that's pretty much junk today:


Another W220 S-Class left to rot

Last edited by GTO : 5th December 2015 at 14:51.
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Old 5th December 2015, 14:54   #12
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

It is not an issue with imported cars. It is more an issue with complex european luxo-barges. Reliability is poor, each and every component is unnecessarily complex from the engine to the suspension to the transmission everything is too darn complex, too many electronics, difficult to diagnose and sourcing parts make these a royal pain in the neck to maintain. On the other hand Jap imports no matter how rare, are mostly fairly simple in terms of engineering and diagnosing issues and parts are never a hassle to find and import

Last edited by IshaanIan : 5th December 2015 at 14:56.
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Old 5th December 2015, 15:44   #13
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

Nowadays the concept of use and throw has taken place in mainstream businesses. Hence most garages are not interested in old car maintainence and restoration.

A Hyundai workshop technician mentioned to me how Hyundai has almost cut down on all repair jobs and they just replace the parts. When the car is obsolete, their spares availability also goes down.

Restoring a beauty for collection is a different ball game than maintaining and running an old car on daily basis. This is evident from the mileage they cover. Most owners of imported cars used them for status rather than Passion. Newer cars have taken their places in the garage.

If one has the time and resources, a good car is still worth restoration. The Mercs in the picture would have covered hardly 75K each.

Last edited by devarshi84 : 5th December 2015 at 15:45.
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Old 5th December 2015, 15:47   #14
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

My cars does not visit any of the ASS, yet they are in good shape with reliability they offered on the first day I started using them. Most of the car parts are available on net, it may be just a matter of wait time for the parts to arrive in India.
My E46 manual, went suspension replacement and brake replacement recently. The OE parts were bought from amazon and ebay.com. The Europeans, though complex in design nature but surprisingly easy to work upon. The best part, what I feel, I do it in my own residence at my own convenience with a mechanic, who listens and understands my engineering and quality requirements.
For electronic issue, I am in touch with someone who has OBD scanner for most of the cars, I own. However, I must admit, for Honda parts times I have to depend on Honda ASS, where I buy the material over counter paying the labour charges as well but get it worked upon at my residence.
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Old 5th December 2015, 16:24   #15
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Default Re: Maintaining an imported car - How difficult & expensive can it be?

There is a funny saying "If you want a car that can go anywhere, buy a Land Rover, but if you also want to make it back home, buy a Land Cruiser"

While the Japanese have added a lot of functional technology/electronics (in some rare cases I will exclude some Lexus & Infinity components), their cars run almost trouble free for many many years with regular maintenance & upkeep. Also if something goes wrong in older models you can still cross-source some component from other cars without paying a bomb. There are enough mechanics to do the job for you as well. Thats why a Land Cruiser or a Pajero or a Crown from the year 2000 can still be running perfectly well.

As for the newer generation European luxury cars, just as we like the latest stuff on our smartphones, the target customer for those cars want all the bells & whistles (probably 80% to show off and 20% for actual functional use, besides most times its the chauffeur that gets to play with all the gizmos!), so the manufacturers are in a constant quest to add more stuff with every new model. And for a majority of this customer base, they have multiple cars and anyways will invariably go for the 'upgrade' in 2-3-4 years time (by which time the warranty expires). They have enough moolah to pick up the newest model. Many times the authorized dealer is not interested in working on a out of warranty car as its a lot of headaches and there is chance for the customer to come back and nag him with the same or a related problem, whereas keeping the new customers happy is more important for him as those may bring potential new 'upgrade' sales. So in the first instance itself he may even quote a very high estimate for the older car's repair just to get you off his back.... And yes sadly for all the money paid for BMW, Mercs, Audis, Jaguars, Range Rovers etc, added to some people saying Jap cars are boring while european cars have character blah blah.., in many cases 100k kms of trouble free running is a big question on the Euro cars unlike a Japanese car. So in the luxury European cars when everything is working- its a dream to own & drive, but once things go out of line, the car drives you. And for the service center its always the Indian road condition or Indian fuel or the Indian usage or whetever stupid excuse they blame on.

Under such circumstances, in my opinion the purchase decision of a used luxury car comes more from the heart than the head and the buyer has to live with it or endure it depending upon his level of Passion, Patience & Purse and invariably when one of them or all three run out, it ends up an abandoned orphan somewhere!

Last edited by Haroon : 5th December 2015 at 16:29.
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