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"For years, Mercedes has cut costs in an effort to hold the line on prices. Materials that look and feel relatively cheap have been showing up even in expensive models like the S-Class sedan, but have been especially notable in the M-Class sport utility. At the same time, the revered Mercedes brand has been dropping in quality and durability rankings.
One such survey by TUV, a German auto-inspection and research association, which measured durability during the first three years of ownership, ranked half a dozen Toyotas ahead of the highest-rated Mercedes, the SLK. (It was No. 12.) Over all, the TUV survey found that Mercedes quality and customer satisfaction had been falling since 1999, and had dropped below the ranking of General Motors' Opel subsidiary.
In North America, Mercedes fell last year to 10th place, from 6th, in a J. D. Power & Associates study that measured dependability after four to five years of ownership. The study found 296 problems for every 100 Mercedes vehicles, compared with 173 problems for Lexus, which has been ranked first for seven years.
None of these issues — declining quality, budget materials, possible brand erosion — may matter much to those who buy the C230. But they pose risks for a company with a century-old reputation for automotive superiority.