VANCE, Ala - Mercedes-Benz did not exactly open a new auto plant here last week. Daimler-Benz did.
Although the big Mercedes star revolves over the architecturally fetching new white factory, and although the big sign in front calls the place 'Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc.,' German officials made it clear last week that Daimler - not Mercedes - is the company behind it.
In his speech at opening ceremonies, Daimler-Benz Chair- man Jurgen Schrempp referred repeatedly to 'Daimler-Benz' and not 'Mercedes.' He even referred to the plant's upcoming sport-utility as 'made by Daimler-Benz in Tuscaloosa.'
For the past three years of the project, company officials have been expressing the idea a bit differently. The slogan until now has been 'made by Mercedes in Tuscaloosa.'
The change reflects the corporate shift in Stuttgart. Daimler did away with the duplicate management of an umbrella corporation and a global automaker. So will Daimler follow Nissan, which dropped its Datsun brand in the 1980s in favor of the corporate name? Officials say that is not the plan.
Said Mike Jackson, president of Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc.: 'Daimler is the company. Mercedes will always be the brand.'