In a collision there are so many parameters that we can agree on sitting in a Mercedes is one of the best options. And in America you are even safer in most cars than elsewhere since the reinforcements you mention are not always in place on other markets. And recalls in the US are not always mirrored on other markets either. Your aggressive and costly lawsuits keep the manufacturers perform better and earlier in the US than elsewhere!
On the quality decline I think the problems are transfered to the repair shops that has to be qualified and equipped in a pace they can not always live up to. And that is why we now trust our problems to our fellow MB-owners before we talk to the garage...
Many thanks for the best site at our service!!