I agree with you 100% about the engineers at MB probably being more obsessive than I about MB design and quality. And I certainly agree with your comments on planned obsolesence. My only point is that there is no company where the engineers have complete say over the end product, and that every company I have ever encountered has marketing types, cost accountants, etc. somewhere in their hierarchy, and a board of directors trying to balance the often conflicting goals of short term profit, long term viability, market brand image, industry position, labor/energy/raw material costs, environmental impact, public relations, government regulations, shareholder expectations, their own career enhancement, etc.
Each of these "suits" has been at least exposed to the concept of planned obsolesence in their education and training, usually under a different name such as "comparative quality adjustment" or some such jargon. The companies are made up of all types, which is appropriate, because technical types often are great designers/manufacturers while lacking business skills. On the other hand, business types sometimes haven't got a clue on how to improve a product, but could sell coal to the devil while convincing him it was really prototype diamonds. The philosophy of the dominant group determines the quality of the product, but no one group usually gets their way completely.
I suspect you are correct about many MB owners being obsessive about their vehicles, but I also believe that in this time of relatively easy money and good times a lot of MB buyers or lease holders are just after image, don't understand anything else about the car, never read the owners manual, and trade it in at 3 years. This is known to the marketing departments focus groups (ye gods, how I hate that term!), and does have at least a small impact on the product.
The current MB 300E equivalent sells new for a sticker price comparible to my '87 300E sticker, despite inflation, more airbags, new engineering and creature comfort features, conversion of former options like leather seats to standard equipment, higher CAFE requirements, lower emission levels, etc. Did MB get more efficient in manufacturing, lower the profit margin on each unit while drastically increasing the number of units sold, cut corners, or all the above? Who knows, but the business thinking is that if the other manufacturers lower their quality and cost, it is both needlessly expensive and business suicide to maintain your quality and durability at levels that much of your market doesn't require - you just need to be "the best" relative to your competition, not relative to some external engineering standard of perfection.
Your comments are one of the things that I love about this forum - polite, thought (and discussion) provoking, and entertaining. For me, maintaining a "perfect" condition car is an itch, and frequent oil change is my personal back scratcher. As my MB tech said "won't hurt, could help, go for what makes you happy".
[Edited by JCE on 01-06-2001 at 11:51 AM]
2003 Firemist Red/grey leather SL 500
2015 Palladium Silver/black mbtex GLK 350
1987 Smoke Silver/burgundy mbtex 300E Sportline (SOLD)
Click to see 87 300E