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My First American Car! Ford Versus Mercedes.

Here’s something I thought I would never say.  I just traded in my Jaguar for a Ford.

OK, let’s be really accurate here.  Actually the Jaguar I owned was built when Jag was part of Ford, so I guess I technically traded in my fancy British Ford for an American Ford, but that’s not my point.  Last month I bought my first real American car (after buying cars for three decades), and I could not be happier. (OK – one more caveat – I do own a custom-built Ford Cobra that graces my garage like a fine blue monument to automotive artistry, and purrs like an eight cylinder demon – but I’m not including it in this analysis.)

In addition to my Jag, I’ve owned a BMW, a couple Audis, a Porsche, several Range Rovers, a Mazda, a Nissan, a Honda, an Infiniti, a Mercedes, and probably a few other cars I’ve forgotten, and until this year it never occurred to me to buy an American car.  I started thinking about buying a Ford after I bought their stock last year (which has so far proved to be a good investment and I remain a Ford stock buyer). And as I researched small SUVs I kept coming back to the new 2011 Ford Edge Limited.  It seemed an ideal mix of style, value, and performance, and I finally took the jump.

It an interesting time for me to compare vehicles, as last month I also took delivery on a 2011 Mercedes.  Certainly these are different cars built for completely different purposes, but I am struck by a few things.  Although the Ford was ½ the price of the Mercedes, it has almost every feature of the more expensive car, and a few the Mercedes does not have.  While the leather is not as supple as the German car, and the ride and handling not quite as taut, the Edge is really luxurious inside, and a pleasure to drive. The Sync system with the Sony stereo is terrific – a much more sophisticated system than the Mercedes. The fit and finish is terrific – not Mercedes level, but just as good as any Japanese car I have ever owned – and while that new leather smell is not quite like a German or English car – it is still quite sweet. 

The Edge also gets 27 mpg on the highway – and driving around town this weekend I got a very respectable 21 mpg. It appears that finally the American car industry is making a comeback.

But the one place where Ford really fell down versus Mercedes was in the quality of the dealership and the buying experience.  The Mercedes dealer was spotless, comfortable, and the saleman knew every feature of the vehicle.  When I took delivery of the car he walked me through every aspect of the vehicle, and followed up to make sure everything was perfect.

In contrast the Ford dealership was a bit tattered and dirty. I knew more about the car than the saleman, the delivery process was awkward, they did not properly instruct me on how to set up the vehicle, and I am still awaiting promised options.  In short – while the car represents an enormous step for the American automotive industry, the dealership still feels very much like a 1977 Ford Fairlane. 

But I can’t help but be optimistic.

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