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DaimlerChrysler reverting to Daimler name after shedding control of U.S. firm

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From Daimler-Benz to DaimlerChrysler and now ... just plain old Daimler.

Many shareholders are sighing in relief as DaimlerChrysler goes through the formality of shedding ``Chrysler'' from its letterhead _ a final farewell to the money-losing American automaker it sold most of earlier this year.

But some are wondering: What happened to Mr. Benz?

Though shareholders are widely expected to approve the change to ``Daimler AG'' on Thursday, scores have complained that the company should still include the name of Karl Benz, a man often considered the grandfather of the automobile in Germany.

Among several motions to be considered at the meeting in Berlin, shareholder Bernd Gans of Vaterstetten, Germany, argues that returning to the original name would right a wrong.

``Replacing the traditional name of Benz with the name of the U.S. corporation, which at that time was already sufficiently well-known as a crisis company, was always regarded as arbitrary and in bad style,'' he wrote.

``A return to including the name of one of the founders, Benz, would ... constitute a certain degree of compensation for the many years of frustration for the employees, particularly in the traditional Benz plants, who deserve to find equal recognition in the name of the corporation in the same way as the employees of the Daimler plants.''

Daimler-Benz was formed in 1926 by a combination of companies founded by German automobile innovators Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler.

Daimler-Benz AG took over Chrysler Corp. in a US$36-billion deal in 1998, in what then-CEO Juergen Schrempp called a ``marriage made in heaven'' as the German company looked for new markets and new opportunities.

But the deal was never popular with German shareholders, who saw the merger as dulling the sheen of one of their country's greatest automakers.

After a decade of up-and-down Chrysler earnings and repeated cost-cutting, DaimlerChrysler AG finally decided earlier this year to shed the American company.

In May, DaimlerChrysler AG's supervisory board approved selling an 80.1 per cent stake in Chrysler to the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP.

Chief executive Dieter Zetsche said in August, however, that Daimler AG plans to hold on to its 19.9 per cent stake in Chrysler, and pledged ``close co-operation wherever it makes sense.''

The German company changed its share symbol on Frankfurt and New York exchanges in August to DAI from DCX.

The deal leaves Daimler with its flagship Mercedes Car Group, its micro Smart car unit and its truck unit, among other businesses.

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DaimlerChrysler reverting to Daimler name after shedding control of U.S. firm
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