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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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A Change in AutoMatters and

The “LoveMercedes Tour 2004”

 

Welcome back everyone. It's another wonderful day in beautiful San Diego County. The temperature has cooled off just a little bit, which means it is perfect for sitting at my desk and writing this for you. The only thing I can think of that would make it even better for this car nut is if we had a major car racing facility here. If anyone out there is working on one, please let me know. I’ll help you.

You might notice a change this week. Especially since getting my new Nikon digital camera, I’ve been taking a lot of photographs for AutoMatters. The problem is, I’ve also been writing a lot of text. Each part of the column requires so much space that something had to give. On the premise that a picture is worth a thousand words and can, therefore, really help you experience the subject matter, I’ve decided to try to cut back on the text in order to make room for more photos in the newspapers. We'll see how that works.

Today’s topic for AutoMatters is Mercedes-Benz. Whether or not you are a Mercedes customer, there is no doubt that their products represent the very best that our automotive world has to offer. Therefore it should come as no surprise that their automotive events are first class too.

As was reported last year in this column, their previous ‘Ride & Drive’ was called the “C SPOT DRIVE PARTY.” The pampered visitors were treated to appetizers, classy displays of lifestyle products and, of course, a selection of the latest and greatest vehicles that Mercedes had to offer. They call it experiential marketing and have held such events for over 15 years. 


Mercedes-Benz at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium

This year’s version, named the “LoveMercedes Tour 2004,” is a little different and even better.  I checked it out when the 12-stop national tour visited San Diego a little while ago.

Both events included a spacious, comfortably air conditioned exhibit hall (calling it a tent, while factually accurate, simply does not do justice to the classiness of the structure or what was within). Inside, once again, there was food and drink to quench our hunger and thirst pangs, a multi-media show to set the stage for this year’s Mercedes-Benz lineup of automobiles and a variety of high-end lifestyle products.


Lifestyle Experience

On the food side, I particularly enjoyed the variety of offerings at the beverage stations. We chose from POM pomegranate juice, boutique soft drinks from the Boylan Bottleworks and Evian water. The problem is, some of this stuff is a little bit on the pricey side. For example, a 16 ounce bottle of POM pomegranate juice, while delicious and healthy to drink, costs about $3 in a grocery store. I’m someone who waits until Marie Calendar’s dinners are on sale for $2.50 each and then stocks up the freezer. Could that mean I’m not a prospective Mercedes-Benz buyer? Time will tell.


Wearable technology from Tissot

The world of high fashion was well represented by a display from Saks Fifth Avenue. High technology items included state-of-the-art tennis rackets from Wilson, watches from MSN Direct and Tissot, and Canon PowerShot digital cameras and printers. We received little paint sample bottles from Benjamin Moore and, to make sure we were ready to enjoy the Mercedes vehicles outside, we were treated to massages provided by Ritz-Carlton.

This was only part of the Mercedes-Benz “LoveMercedes Tour 2004” experience. Since this was, after all, a driving event, there were also great opportunities to drive Mercedes-Benz vehicles. That’s what we did next, and our efforts went towards a good cause. Each mile driven at each of the events will go towards scholarships for local students. This is part of the company’s recently launched “DRIVE YOUR FUTURE, the Mercedes-Benz USA scholarship program that benefits students who will be the first generation in their families to attend college.”


Fun in the Sun

Outside, Mercedes had three distinctly different courses set up for us. “Fun in the Sun” gave us the opportunity to put the top down and experience driving an SL Roadster and a CLK Cabriolet, among others. The large west lot of Qualcomm stadium gave us the room we needed to really open the cars up and stretch their legs a little bit.


4MATIC Experience

The “4MATIC Experience” was challenging too, but in a different way. The watered-down portion of the course really helped to showcase Mercedes’ advanced all-wheel-drive technology.

 
Tennis anyone?

In case we needed a break from driving, Mercedes and Wilson thoughtfully provided us with a tennis pro and equipment to help teach us the fine points of the game.

 
M-Class & G-Class in the Off-Road Adventure

My personal favorite course was called the “Off-Road Adventure.” I will never again wonder what separates all-wheel-drive vehicles like the Mercedes M-Class from their G-Class. The course utilized structures that the vehicles had to climb up and over. We did NOT get to drive on this course. Instead, we rode as passengers and experienced the G-Class as it scrambled effortlessly over a structure that seemed to have the much less expensive M-Class teetering on the verge of rolling over. It was all very exciting.

The G-Class behaved like a mountain goat. It was as if someone was individually placing each tire in just the right position and attitude to provide confidence-inspiring traction and control. The M-Class, like many other SUVs, seems best suited to streets or mild off-roading. All-wheel-drive vehicles are not created equal.


Pre-production Mercedes-Benz CLS 500

At the end of the day, of course, this event was all about marketing. They even gave us a $1,500 coupon to “Go Buy Some Love.” A handout told us about the Mercedes-Benz European Delivery Program, which can save buyers 7% off of the total vehicle MSRP. A while back I told you about Volvo’s excellent program. Here is some of what the Mercedes-Benz program offers: “one night accommodation in one of 12 luxurious selected hotels,” “15 days European road insurance,” “optional Black Forest Alps Rally Package,” “conveyance from 14 European drop-off points to port of shipment” and “transportation to the selling/delivering dealer.” They even waive the Destination Charge. Buy a car and get a European vacation. If this is something that interests you, visit an authorized Mercedes-Benz dealer for more information or go to www.mbusa.com on the Web.

Well, that’s about it for now. There should be plenty of room for photos.

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com. Enjoy the archives and more at www.AutoMatters.net. Drive safely and do join me again next time.

 

Copyright © 2004, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #118r2 AutoMatters

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