Some buyers are asking dealers to install 1970s-style vinyl roofs on their new Chrysler 300s, as many owners of Cadillacs and Lincolns have long done and still do today, The Detroit News reported.

The paper said Chrysler executives are wincing at the sight as they believe their elegant new sedans have fallen prey to lowbrow consumer tastes.

Chrysler officials reportedly are quietly asking dealers to stop having the faux-convertible tops installed, but dealers say the response from customers has been too strong to quit now.

“No kidding, the first time we did one, the thing lasted about three hours and it was sold,” Joe Vogel, a salesman at Roseville Chrysler Jeep, who has installed vinyl roofs on about 10 300s and plans to do more, told the Detroit News.

The paper said the conflict is a classic example of what happens when a carmaker’s vision for a vehicle clashes with consumer tastes.

“I’ve likened the car to Arnold Schwarzenegger in a black tuxedo,” Trevor Creed, Chrysler’s design chief, told the Detroit News. “That’s what it looks like now. But when they (add vinyl roofs), it makes it look like Arnold is having a bad hair day.”

The paper noted that Chrysler and rivals Ford and General Motors Corp began offering a wide range of vinyl roofs on their high-end passenger sedans during the 1960s and 1970s to evoke the image of regal horse-drawn carriages but, when demand for vinyl roofs began to fade about a decade ago, the Big Three stopped offering roof treatments as a factory-installed option. Chrysler made its last vinyl-roof-topped car — a New Yorker sedan — in 1992 and that left the custom auto parts industry to take up the baton.

Though the market is small for vinyl roofs, “it seems to be holding its own, rather than going away,” Jim Spoonhower, vice president of market research for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a trade group that represents auto accessory makers, including vinyl roof manufacturers, told the motor city newspaper.

Brian Ingrahm, a division manager at vinyl roof installer Ideal Accents, reportedly said sales of vinyl roofs are on the rise, especially on the new Chrysler 300.

The paper said so called “vinyl roofs,” are actually made of fiberglass and then covered in cloth or vinyl, adding about a quarter-inch of height to a vehicle’s roof. Customers can choose a full cover, called a “cabriolet”; a half-cover, known as a “landau” or “brougham” top; or a quarter-cover “carriage” top.

Dealers told the Detroit News they can make up to $US2,000 on one vinyl roof, so it’s not surprising that they’re reluctant to stop taking orders just because a few Chrysler executives think they look tacky.

Besides, it’s the customer who should decide what he wants to do with his car, Dan Frost, president of Southfield Chrysler Jeep, the largest Chrysler dealership by sales in the United States, told the paper, adding: “You don’t tell a customer no on anything.”