One of my colleagues has two camry's, both 1987, both with over 250K miles, no problems whatsoever. His repair bills (combined for the two cars) is much less than that for my 190E (85, 133K). And this is not an isolated experience. There are TONS of such examples.
the reality is, the German manufacturers use "product control" for quality, while the Japanese believe in "process control". The Germans make the cars, and then test each one for problems, then correct the ones that have problems. The Japs identify WHY that problem occured in the first place, and correct the manufacturing process so that it never happens again. This way, over the years, they produce nearly flawless cars. Of course, my explanation is very simplistic, but I think you get the idea. There is a basic difference in philosophy here.
Mercedes has made excellent cars for over 100 years. They have a rock solid (well, not anymore!) brand name. Lexus and Acura have existed for about 15 years only. It takes decades to build up a luxury brand name, at least 30 years. Give them another decade, and then see. Already, Lexus is pretty close to BMW and Mercedes in brand appeal. Acura is close behind. Some people on this forum may not agree, but ask those who own these cars, MOST of them are totally satisfied.
The reality is, unless manufacturers bring in the Japanese efficiencies, there's no way they can sell a luxury car for 30K. If they do, they have to be cutting corners. The Japs are far more efficient. I don't think Mercedes has the ability to manufacture quality products for less than 50K - hence the junk C and M class vehicles. That they are having problems even in the E and S class, is a little harder to explain, and totally shocking. Their CEo (Jurgen whatever), has been the CEO since 1995, and its no coincidence, that's when their slide really began. And the acquisition of Chrysler has not helped matters. Their basic philosophy has changed - Mercedes is no more an exclusive luxury car manufacturers, its a mass marketer, and they really cannot compete in that department with the Japs.