From 1957 until 1963, U.S.-market Mercedes-Benz vehicles were sold and serviced through "dealers franchised by Studebaker-Packard." Don't believe me? Check out these vintage ads. How times change ...
In researching an upcoming article, I recently found myself buried in vintage Motor Trend issues from the late 1950s. I was shocked to find the two pictured advertisements, which reveal Mercedes-Benz's unexpected sales avenues during that time. (The 190SL ad is in the July 1958 issue, and the "sublime star" comes from the May 1959 edition of MT, our corporate sibling.)
The Studebaker-Packard connection was unknown to a number of us here at Automobile (including one Mercedes-Benz owner). My how things took a turn ... by 1963, Mercedes had its own North American arm, and by 1966, Studebaker (which had merged with Packard in 1954) had built its last car. The actual Packard nameplate died in 1958. Back then, the Studebaker group, along with American Motors (bought out by Chrysler in the mid-1980s), were considered independents to Detroit's Big Three; Hudson, Kaiser-Willys, and Nash had all recently dropped out of the car biz.
This got me thinking: Are we in for a similarly tumultuous time for carmakers in the U.S. market? What dropouts and mergers might we expect in the next five years?
Other interesting ads of the period revealed some more bits of product/brand trivia:
If you think General Motors has too many brands today, remember that, in late 1950s America, Buick dealers peddled (GM's German brand) Opels, and Pontiac outposts hawked (GM's British marque) Vauxhalls.
Harley-Davidson placed an ad for its "Topper" scooter on MT's inside back cover in August 1958.
German cars by Lloyd (who?), strangely, had their own dealers and an incorporated North American division, but BMWs were imported by Fadex Commercial Corp, while Fiat and Lancia products (among others) were distributed by Hoffman Motors Corp. Volkswagen, Triumph, and Renault, all of which sold pretty well, had their own N.A. offices and dealers. Toyopet cars, which were introduced to America in a MT ad in August 1958, also had their own sales/service points.
And where's Japan's Toyopet now? Just at nearly every street corner, mall parking lot, and football tailgate in the country. Heck, I hear Toyota is even on some Americans' belt buckles these days ...