This does not seem to be contained to Mercedes. BMW, VW, and Audi have all lost ground in quality rankings, and once the darlings of CR, are now bottom feeding below cheap garbage from Chevy.
Now, at this point MB does not care one bit. Sales are doing fine, and the public votes with dollars, right?
Well, the real problem folks, is US. It's the folks on the board. Mercedes has chosen to abandon the hard-core MB buyers and follow the path of sales through leasing and people that think a car is old when it turns four. The number of people like us that buys a car and keeps it for 15 years is dwindling. People just build a "car payment" into their lives, and just expect it's something they'll always have. They get rid of a car before the warranty expires anyway.
So, why would Mercedes, or any other maker for that matter, build cars to last 15-20 years? That is plain DUMB in the business world. You need to keep the products turning over! Drive sales!
Remember that MB got hammered by high prices and Lexus competition in 1990-1995 so hard that they completely shifted gears. By 1995 people's buying habits were on the move, and all the Germans were seeing the light. Heck, I've yet to see a Mercedes print ad in my local papers that even mentions the PRICE. They talk about the lease payment, and that's all most folks care about now.
A friend of mine didn't want to buy a 1997 BMW 328 when he found out it had 125,000 kilometers on it. That's 75,000 miles. He thought the car was done for, miled out, at the end of it's useful life. The car was a great deal, and had I been looking for a car, would have snapped it up. At first I couldn't understand why the price was so agressive, and then it dawned on me. Most folks think that it's got maybe a year or two left and then it'll have to be towed to the yard.
Go find you neighbour and hit them on the head. They're responsible for this mess.
1998 C230 "Black Betty"