Open the hood of a high-line European vehicle, and you'll likely see not a bare engine, but one decorated with thermoplastic cladding, topped off with the make's nameplate in chrome.

That icing on the cake has nothing to do with engine performance. It has much to do with positive customer perceptions, says Gary Dilts senior vice president of sales for DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group.

Chrysler is learning that lesson from their German brethren at Mercedes-Benz.

“It's a quality perception. Europeans do that well,” Dilts says of aesthetic trimmings on the engine. “We Americans would build good engines, but didn't care how they looked.”

They care now. More and more domestic engines are dressed up to look their best.

“That costs money but it enhances the image when someone looks under the hood,” says Dilts.

He says Mercedes puts the right touches elsewhere on the vehicle, too.

For instance, Mercedes steering wheels feature distinctive chrome inlays of the brand's three-point star.

“Chrysler guys in the past would have taken the badge off the steering wheel (in vehicle development) to save a few dollars,” says Dilts. “Mercedes puts it on because the driver sees that every day. It's worth it. The same can be said for interiors.”

Chrysler is following Mercedes' lead in the decorative arts department.

That includes the engine touches, distinctive brand badges on the steering wheel and lusher interiors.