A viral video from a dissatisfied Mercedes-Benz customer in northwest China has sparked heated discussion online about car dealerships and their sometimes-dishonest practices.
In the video posted Friday on Twitter by the state-run newspaper People’s Daily, the customer can be seen sitting on the hood of a shiny red showroom car at a Mercedes-Benz dealership, berating staff after she noticed an oil leak in her recently purchased vehicle. In a later audio recording, she also complains of being charged a 15,000 yuan ($2,200) “financial services fee.”
Following the attention the incident received, the market regulation bureau in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, launched an investigation into Xi’an Lizhixing Automobile Co. Ltd., the Mercedes-Benz authorized reseller where the woman had bought her car, according to a statement Sunday from the city’s internet information office. The statement added that the unsatisfied customer should be refunded for the purchase of the vehicle as soon as possible.
Later the same day, Mercedes-Benz issued its own statement through Chinese media outlets, saying it does not charge a financial services fee to its customers or its vendors. “Although car dealerships are legal entities with the right to operate independently, we openly and regularly require dealers to be honest and law-abiding in the process of their independent operations in order to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of their customers,” the statement said.
Sixth Tone’s phone calls to Xi’an Lizhixing Automobile Co. Ltd. on Monday were met with a recorded message saying they could not be completed.
In the viral video, the customer claims staff at the dealership told her they could change the engine but not give her a refund or a replacement vehicle. She also alleges that after she made a down payment of 200,000 yuan, she discovered that the vehicle was leaking oil.
News portal Sina Shaanxi reported Friday morning that the dealership said it had reached an agreement with the customer but couldn’t disclose further details for the sake of her privacy. However, during a later interview with Shaanxi media, the woman said she had “not received any official reply from the company or the dealership — so as far as I’m concerned, the matter has not been resolved.”
In a separate statement on Saturday, Mercedes-Benz apologized for the customer’s “unpleasant experience” and said it had dispatched a team to Xi’an to meet with her and find a solution to her predicament. The customer leaked an 18-minute audio recording from this meeting to the media: In it, she can be heard complaining about the Mercedes-Benz employees’ alleged excuses for not helping with her situation.
The case has spawned several hashtags on Weibo, with many netizens sharing their own horror stories involving car dealerships. One woman in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou claimed that her Mercedes-Benz broke down less than 24 hours after she bought it, and an unverified video that appears to show a violent altercation involving a crowd of people outside a Mercedes-Benz dealership somewhere in China has circulated on social media.
Last week, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced that Beijing Benz Automotive Co. Ltd. — the name of Daimler’s joint venture in China, in cooperation with domestic automaker BAIC Motor — would recall 1,925 Mercedes-Benz vehicles from May 31 over concerns of defective airbags. Three other foreign automakers — Ferrari, Subaru, and BMW — are also recalling vehicles in China this year due to a range of potential safety hazards.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: People inspect new Mercedes-Benz vehicles at a dealership in Huaibei, Anhui province, Sept. 24, 2011. IC)