I have to disagree with those of you who say Mercedes quality has "dropped." When a friend of mine (who drives a loaded Toyota Avalon) climbed into my C-Class, he said "Wow, you feel like you're getting into a vault". My car has 52,000 miles (barely broken in I know)and rides and looks just like it is brand new.
Keep in mind that, with all the "creature features" of today's car, there's a lot more to go wrong -- whether it's a chevy or a MB. As for frequency of problems (lack thereof), I'd put MB ahead of all of them. The 70's cars didn't have headlight washers, heated seats, etc. etc. Let's be realistic -- there's probably hundreds of features that today's car have that simply weren't offered in the 70's.
As for the prices, keep in mind that MB is under tremendous price pressure from a lot of quality carmakers these days. Back in the 70's, MB had a monopoly on "quality". You wanted quality, you paid for it. Not anymore: you can buy excellent quality from Honda, Toyota, Acura, Lexus, etc. etc. To stay in the ballgame, MB had no choice but to keep control of their prices. You think the quality of TV's, stereos, and computers has dropped just because they cost as much (if not half or a fourth as much) as they did 20 years ago? Not.
My most recent testimony to MB quality was a recent hail storm: I watched from my office window as large hail pinged my C-Class relentlessly. The result? One very, very minor indention in the trunk lid. My friend's Mazda sitting next to it looked like someone took a hammer to it.
While these MB's aren't perfect, I think they're sturdy, reliable work horses that NEVER go out of style. Funny how you can hardly tell a nice 1986 or 87 300E from a brand new Mercedes,isn't it?
People often ask me "How can you afford to drive a Mercedes?" My response is:
"I can't afford NOT to drive a Mercedes."