Greg Wilson was most of the way home Sunday night when he stopped for a red light on the Trans-Canada Highway just outside Brandon.
The Winnipeg doctor was driving back to Winnipeg from Medicine Hat, Alta., where his daughter had been playing hockey.
"There was a buzzing noise and a flickering of lights," Wilson, 52, said. "Immediately after that, as I was then waiting at that red light to turn green, I started to smell something burnt."
He quickly pulled his 2017 Mercedes-Benz SUV into the adjacent McDonald’s parking lot.
"By (that) time… there was already smoke and flames coming out of the hood," he said.
He grabbed his phone, suitcase and winter clothing and bolted inside the restaurant, his white GLE 400 a ball of fire behind him.
Wilson, who was alone in the luxury vehicle, considers himself extremely lucky. For one thing, it was -28 C, and the traffic light is located in one of the few places with somewhere to take refuge along that mostly desolate stretch of Prairie highway.
"I can’t imagine (if it were) a less able-bodied elderly person or a mother in there, with a couple of kids in car seats trying to get out of a vehicle that fast," he told the Free Press.
“I can’t imagine (if it were) a less able–bodied elderly person or a mother in there, with a couple of kids in car seats trying to get out of a vehicle that fast." – Greg Wilson
"The outcome could’ve been very tragic."
Staff inside the restaurant called 911 and firefighters arrived quickly to hose down the remains of the nearly $100,000 vehicle he purchased new. He made his final payment in December.
Wilson said he’s kept up with maintenance; his last appointment in November cost him $4,000. He hadn’t heard of any problems with the vehicle model or received any communications from Mercedes-Benz about a recall.
"It’s really unsettling," he said. "I’d want to know if there’s other vehicles this has happened to."
He said he paid a visit to Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg Monday and met with a service adviser and the operations manager, provided them with photos and got servicing documents for MPI.
Dealership general manager Ryan Borton told the Free Press Thursday he knew nothing about the incident.
"We have forwarded your information to Mercedes-Benz Canada who will be the ones to assist you in your inquiry," Borton wrote in an email.
A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz Canada said Thursday the company couldn’t comment on any specific case, particularly if it hasn’t been informed by the customer and completed its own investigation.
"Should the customer in question contact Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg, their onsite experts would be more than happy to immediately assist them," Zak Paget, Mercedes-Benz Canada’s corporate communications manager, said in a statement.
Since Wilson’s close call, friends sent him a Jan. 4 Reuters wire service report from Germany on the manufacturer recently notifying as many as 800,000 customers of a technical defect that could spark a fire in some Mercedes-Benz models; his wasn’t listed among them.
A Reuters report on the manufacturer (Mercedes–Benz) recently notified as many as 800,000 customers of a technical defect that could spark a fire in some car models.
The Reuters report said the letter to customers advised that recalls are not currently possible because parts needed to fix the problem aren’t available.
"In the meantime the affected vehicle should be driven in a particularly prudent manner and usage reduced to the bare minimum," the letter read.
"It is disappointing that an automaker at that sort of level, and (one) you would expect as holding high standards, would leave its customers in a position that would be potentially very vulnerable," said Wilson, who was able to contact another parent who was also on their way home from the game to pick him up and get him back to Winnipeg.
"I hope they sort things out, and I hope whatever information that they do have in terms of those potential fire risks are communicated to the people that have those vehicles."
Wilson didn’t say whether he’d take legal action, acknowledging he was unsure "where this is headed."
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.