MBUSA's money grubbing is nothing new. I have been following MB automobiles for over 40 years now, and believe me, once they managed to get the marque established in the USA, the money grubbing began.
About 25 or 30 years ago, an article in a magazine pointed out that MBUSA added $1,000 of profit to every MB imported into the US. (Heavens only knows what this price premium is now.)This was, at the time, a significant percentage of the sales price. Then, they had every conceivable add-on installed in every car that was imported and charged an outrageous price for each one. The result was that, while many middle class Germans (even taxi drivers) were able to drive MB automobiles, it was mostly the wealthy in America who could afford to do so. This also impacted the manual transmission question. What wealthy American, driving around in his expensive luxury automoble, wanted to be having to shift gears? There was very little demand for manual transmissions and they were all but dropped from the import line. As far as I know, the 240D was one of the few MB sedans (perhaps the only one?) that was imported by MBUSA with a manual transmission.
So it is obvious that MBUSA has no interest in making their cars available to middle class Americans. They want the most profit from every vehicle that they can milk out of it. By keeping the prices up, they give the marque a "luxury car" reputation, which attracts the big bucks of the wealthy and enables them to do just that.
Once you could buy a MB for factory delivery and save enough on the cost of the car to pay for the trip and a vacation in Europe. Apparently, there were a lot of people taking advantage of that arrangement. This must have aggravated MBUSA. When last I made inquiry about European Delivery at my dealer (about a year ago), I was told that I would pay the full American price for the car, which apparently gives MBUSA their cut.
Money grubbing is a long established practice at MBUSA. The high price of Mercedes-Benz automobiles (and parts)in the USA has been established by their business policies.