I'm surprised by this forum, but I'm bored so I'm going to enter the ring anyway.
First about the pads. Has no one ever used a space blanket? The instant you unroll one the aluminum starts flaking off the mylar. After just a few crumpling and flattening sessions the entire sheet has see-through spots. The neoairs use the same thing (although probably cheaply sourced from china) so of course you'll have the same problem. The stuff is pretty dang fragile so it shouldn't have come as a surprise to most that the neo-air was going to have issues.
For single sheet performance degradation, it will be linked directly the amount of flaking. So if 50% of the aluminum flakes off, well then the sheet will only reflect 50% of the IR radiation. Now they use multiple sheets, each with +90% reflectivity. With the somewhat locally uniform distribution of flakes (ie they're small flakes even spread out over a thin spot) it will probably be a while before you notice that 0.7 difference in R-value. So you'll see thinning of the aluminum layers the highest wear regions. The edges, along any repeated fold lines, and the center where your torso and hips make contact will be first to go, but again the alum layer is so fragile that regardless that you'll get minor delamination virtually every time you hear the baffles crinkle.
David...stick with economics and not product development or engineering. Although given the current global economic climate I'm not sure so many trust the "dismal" science anymore. I can't believe you want examples where cost does not equal quality. Lets start with automobiles. Landrover, high priced SUVs (both their current luxury oriented brand and historically) with a reputation of not working. In specific their electrical systems are generally shoddy (as with most other English origin autos...ask the British hosts of Top Gear). How about computers? Sony Vaios were notorious for being overpriced and underpowered among the IT industry, or even MS Windows was extraordinarily crappy for decades and expensive. Intel Pentium 4s were expensive and underperformed compared to AMD at the time. Clothes? TNF after it sold out to the yuppies and grew fat for the general American populace (along with half of Patagonia's product line, Mountain Hardwear, Columbia, etc) or any other company that shipped production to China and skimped on QC and customer service in search of higher short term profits. How about Goretex vs eVent or even DriDucks and Tyvek. How about expensive, heavy, poorly performing backpacking gear sold to the general population as necessary vs any of the affordable and light gear made by cottage industry (or even GoLite, although it is in a weird transition right now).
I agree that CD should have been more thorough with their testing (especially the leak issues) but buying bleeding edge technology is ALWAYS risky and expensive to the consumer. It's new and doesn't have economies of scale yet (you should understand this, but don't for some reason). Early adopters tend to finance investment into scaling production so that new technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous. It's the same business model that brought us gasoline vehicles (and slowly various form of hybrids and electric vehicles ala Tesla), computers smaller than a house and embedded in EVERYTHING, air travel, soon to be space travel, plastics, metals, and pretty much everything. There are other methods of course, such as subsidizing new technology to promote adoption and consumption of higher margin consumables (console gaming systems), but that's only necessary when the product is just a gateway to a far more lucrative industry. This is all very basic stuff that you shouldn't need a masters in anything to understand.