DaimlerChrysler AG shareholders approve a name change to Daimler AG, voting 98.8% in favor, but not before serving notice that the legacy of Karl Benz must be acknowledged.

To this end, the former Mercedes Car Group becomes the Mercedes-Benz Car Group and the van unit is renamed Mercedes-Benz Vans.

As for the new corporate name, Chairman Dieter Zetsche tells shareholders: “People from Mannheim, Karl Benz’s birthplace, and many other places have asked us, ‘Why don’t we go back to the name Daimler-Benz?’”

It’s a matter of stability.

“Wherever the focus is on our Group as a whole, we want to present ourselves consistently as Daimler,” Zetsche says in his speech to shareholders.

That name honors Gottlieb Daimler, whose moniker was paired with Benz's name to establish the auto maker that became Daimler-Benz AG. In 1998, it joined forces with the former Chrysler Corp. to become DaimlerChrysler AG.

In August, Cerberus Capital Management LP spent $7.4 billion to acquire a controlling interest in DC’s Chrysler unit and Chrysler LLC was established.

The name change also affects entities such as the former DaimlerChrysler Financial Services, which becomes Daimler Financial Services.

“The name ‘Daimler’ will immediately make it clear that we are a different company today than we were before,” Zetsche says in a speech. “The total annual revenues of the Mercedes Car Group and the Truck Group today are double what they were 10 years ago. We now have seven additional model series in the Mercedes Car Group and three new brands, namely Maybach, Smart and AMG.

“The Truck Group has incorporated FUSO, Detroit Diesel and Western Star. Financial Services’ portfolio is two and a half times as big as it was in 1997. And in general we can say that our business is now much more international in scope.”

Mercedes dealers in the U.S., who never dropped the Benz name from their marketing efforts, are pleased.

“There’s a ton of equity in that name,” says Bruce Schulman, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills. “Mercedes-Benz is iconic. We’re very careful to make sure that our name is ‘Mercedes-Benz of …’ or whatever the dealer happens to think is appropriate.”

Dealers switched over to Mercedes-exclusive contracts on Oct. 1 as Daimler and Chrysler work to separate their financial services operations, Schulman added.

Chrysler has said the effort should conclude by first-quarter 2008.

emayne@wardsauto.com