Now that Chrysler Corp. and Daimler-Benz are merging, some people wonder if their Mercedes will still be a Mercedes.
"What effect will it have on the overall quality and engineering standards Mercedes holds so high?" wondered Ron Aspgren of Dallas, who has owned eight or 10 of the luxury cars over the years. "The quality standards I don't think are the same with the American car."Longtime Chrysler customers like George Riehl of Jonesville, Mich., who owns seven Chryslers, say they're disappointed and don't understand why Chrysler executives would allow the company to be swallowed up. For Riehl, "Mercedes" means cars that are too expensive to buy and maintain.
Chrysler and Mercedes for decades have relied on fierce brand loyalty to sell cars and trucks. So in the wake of a megamerger announced Thursday, the companies are seeing some backlash to the deal.
"You're going to have some hard-core aficionados of both brands who are Immediately going to cry foul," said Eric Noble, an analyst with AutoPacific, an automotive marketing research and consulting firm. "Those sort of sentiments will be vocalized much more than they'll be acted upon."
The companies seemed to see the troubles coming when they decided early on that Mercedes and Chrysler cars would be sold separately.
While Chrysler drivers can joke that they have traded up - "My K-car just became a Mercedes" - drivers of the prestigious German brand would seem to have more to lose.
Still, as Americans grow more accustomed to megamergers and globalization, many take the merger in stride.
"I see good for everybody in this," said Jim Luikens, who publishes a newsletter for Mercedes buffs and has owned about 50 of the cars since 1981.
"Daimler will raise Chrysler's standards," the Kentwood, Mich., man said.
Drivers who already have a Mercedes and a Chrysler in the driveway say the brands will coexist well. Bill Heldmann of Ellington, Conn. drives Mercedes cars and a Chrysler minivan, and he says he will continue to view them as very separate.
Harold Meier, who lives in Dallas and has four Mercedes, isn't worried that Chrysler will pull down the high standards at Daimler-Benz. "Those people don't change very easily," he said.
Still, some can't help but note the irony of the merger. Ray Montgomery of Silver Spring, Md., had a bumper sticker from the days when Chrysler sought a government bailout to avoid bankruptcy. It said, "We Can Do It - Chrysler Corp."
Even so, he said the merger didn't surprise him.
"Nothing like that upsets me," Montgomery said. "Things like this are going on all the time."