When Tracy Birrell took delivery of her dream £43,000 Mercedes GLC luxury car in July she was over the moon.
But she says the only place her new set of wheels drove her was up the wall when it unexpectedly started clonking and juddering at low speeds.
Tracy, a 38-year-old IT systems analyst, first noticed a problem with the car at the onset of autumn and the colder wet mornings.
She said: ‘It became particularly noticeable when parking it or negotiating bends and roundabouts. It feels like the car has got square wheels and they’re about to come off.
‘The noise gave my elderly mum quite a fright.
‘As it was on a three-year lease agreement, I booked it in with the dealer and a mechanic checked it out but couldn’t find anything wrong with it.
‘After a couple of weeks I just had to take it back because I didn’t feel safe in the car and didn’t want to get behind the wheel until the problem was fixed.
‘But before the mechanic even looked at the car, he said he was quite sure he’d find nothing wrong with it.
‘He was at great pains to explain that I wasn’t the only one complaining about the GLC model’s wheel judder problem. He knew of three other owners who’d complained about the same thing.
‘The service manager assured me the car was perfectly safe to drive but I simply didn’t believe it and I complained to Mercedes.
‘According to them it’s not a performance or safety issue but all down to the tyres, and the solution is to fit winter replacements.
‘I wasn’t satisfied and with the car, so I rejected it as not being fit for purpose. Mercedes said I couldn’t reject it and have refused to take it back and cancel the finance agreement.
‘In the meantime I’ve been online and found sites with scores of customers who’ve reported similar issues with these cars.’
A frustrated Tracy contacted Streetwise to check where she stood.
We explained that although she’d rejected the car she was in a difficult place because it would be down to her to provide persuasive proof the car infringed her statutory rights.
We were doubtful that she could prove it was a safety hazard and unfit for purpose. By her own admission it was undeniably a good drive and performed to specification.
The dealership was satisfied there were no safety issues with Tracy’s car. The noise at low speeds was a known characteristic of the marque which could be significantly reduced by fitting appropriate tyres.
We spoke to a number of Mercedes GLC owners who had complained along similar lines and they agreed that their cars had suffered from what they described as minor ‘crabbing’ problems at low speeds.
They said the advice they’d been given from Mercedes to fit winter tyres considerably reduced it.
They were otherwise utterly blown away with the quality and performance of their new cars and completely satisfied with them.
Further probing revealed that the Mercedes-Benz GLC car had been awarded the highest five star safety rating from the leading independent Euro NCNP test centre.
We discovered they’d also referred similar complaints about the noise issue to the vehicle inspection firm DEKRA, which has international accreditation — but no safety or adverse component matters had come to light.
Mercedes told us they were aware some customers had reported similar comfort problems to Tracy.
They confirmed they were working with the Vehicle Standards Agency and the Financial Services Ombudsman to ensure a satisfactory conclusion for all customers.
Streetwise advised a disappointed Tracy that in our view the fitness for purpose argument just didn’t hold water.
Going to law would be expensive. In view of the cost of the car and lack of evidence its relevance was doubtful.While we understood our verdict wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear, it wouldn’t be helpful or credible to suggest otherwise.
Sometimes the hardest thing Streetwise had to do was to persuade people with consumer problems it wasn’t in their best interest to persist in flogging a dead horse.
We suggested that if she was of a mind to take the matter further a form of alternative dispute resolution was the most sensible way forward.
We suggested that as the car was leased the most obvious route was to put her complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman. Alternatively The Motor Ombudsman also offered an inexpensive dispute resolution service.
Tracy, from Hedge End, said: ‘Although I’m still unhappy with the car your explanation about the realistic way forward made complete sense.
‘I’ve since contacted Mercedes again and as a gesture of goodwill they’ve agreed to the supply and fitting of replacement winter tyres.
‘They’re confident it will eliminate or reduce the noise. I’m so grateful to you for taking up my case and pointing me in the right direction.’