95E320CAB and Kestas are on the right track. I looked at the window sticker from my '91 E300. It was a "base" model meaning the only add on was the paint. Sticker price, $47200. I looked up the MSRP on a '03 and it's $47670. Then I pulled ot the sticker for the '85 300D I used to have, MSRP, $34680. Mercedes had a 50% increase from '85-'91, but a 1% increase from '91-'03? Granted there is a significant difference between a 124 and a 123, but I think it shows a major shift in thinking.
Meanwhile, a Lexus LS 400 went from $42000 (est) in '91 to $55700 in '03. It appears Mercedes did make a decision to sell to the masses. The problem I see is they are no longer the value they once were.
I say that because my definition of value is, "when reality exceeds expectations". I think the majority of first time buyers think they are getting the fabled Mercedes reliability. They are not, therefore, they don't meet my definition.
To blame this on Chrysler is incorrect. This change in philosophy happerned years before Chrysler entered the picture. I do think however, Chrysler has benefitted greatly from their hooking up with MB. I own a PT Crusier and the build quality is outstanding. It's the first new car I've ever owned that hasn't had a single problem. It is interesting to note that PT's are built in Mexico. I'm told those jobs are so coveted that the employees know if they don't do good work, there's a long line outside of folks who'd love to take their place.
Hmm, sounds like the USA 70-80 years ago.
91 300E 120K
90 300SE 275K (sold)
92 BMW 525iM 120K
90 BMW 525iA 175K
85 300D 175K (sold)
84 300SD 245K (sold)