Purpose: This paper aims to explore how the ownership transfer from a highly industrialised country to less industrialised countries influences consumers’ brand perceptions. Design/methodology/approach: Three acquisition cases of premium car brands (Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo) are investigated using qualitative data from online brand communities. Findings: When country of ownership (COOW) for brands changes, it leads to different effects on consumers’ brand perception. Consumers are disoriented as to which cue to apply when evaluating the brand. They also see that brand values, and how these are communicated, are in conflict, as are sustainability images. Research limitations/implications: This paper focuses on the perspective of brand community members in Europe and the USA and studies only the car industry and acquisitions by two countries (China and India) using data from the time of ownership transfers. The authors discuss theoretical implications and suggest further research to gain more insights and address limitations. Practical implications: Following a transfer of ownership, communication campaigns are required for addressing the original brand’s heritage and promoting the new brand owner’s image. Managers need to take advantage of loyal brand fans by turning them into brand ambassadors, spreading information to convince consumers that are more sceptical. Originality/value: This study fills the knowledge gap regarding change of COOW to developing countries as new owners, and its consequences for consumer perception. The authors also introduce an innovative type of data collection through brand communities, which is less commonly used in international marketing research.