Mercedes-Benz Logo

History of Mercedes-Benz, the Oldest and Most Innovative Car Manufacturers in the World

The name of Mercedes-Benz is a legend in the automotive field and is known as the oldest manufacturer in the world, born in the city of Stuttgart, in western Germany, by the hand of people who began to build the history of an industry.

Wherever we see the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star, we will immediately recognize it and instantly revert to icons of glitz and good taste like these cars. But how has this brand come to be positioned so much and so penetratingly in our subconscious? Well, in this post we will analyze this, but first a bit of history:

After training as a gunsmith and working in France, Gottlieb Daimler attended the Stuttgart Polytechnic School from 1857 to 1859. He then held various jobs, including a draftsman, and at the end of 1863, he was appointed workshop inspector in a factory in Germany, Reutlingen, where he met Wilhelm Maybach.

Gottlieb Daimler
Gottlieb Daimler in the 1890’s

He left the factory in 1882 and set up a development shop in his Cannstatt greenhouse to focus on the design of gasoline-powered four-stroke engines. He invited Wilhelm Maybach to work with him in 1884 and they both developed an engine they called the “grandfather clock”, which is considered the first internal combustion engine adaptable to a vehicle.

With its compact and low-weight design, the machine formed the basis for the installation of the “Reitwagen”, a kind of primitive motorcycle that was the first engine-powered vehicle in existence. However, the costs of trial operations soon consumed Daimler’s entire fortune, which was not so modest either, so he was forced to look for business partners.

Wilhelm maybach
Wilhelm Maybach in 1900

He founded the company ” Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft ” on November 28, 1890 together with Max Duttenhofer and another partner named Wilhelm Lorenz . But while the latter two wanted to produce stationary engines, Daimler preferred to focus on vehicle production, which led to a dispute. Added to this problematic context was the resignation of his friend Wilhelm Maybach in 1891, due to unacceptable contractual conditions.

This created an even more complicated situation in which Daimler and Maybach (who had not lost their friendship), ended up making engines in parallel with the company with its patents. For this reason, Duttenhofer and Lorenz excluded Daimler from the operations, but since it was not so easy to buy his stake, they had to let him return and re-engage Wilhelm Maybach with a better contractual situation. The agreement finally allowed the company to move forward and that is how the Daimler Group originated.

FACT: Daimler and Maybach did not invent the internal combustion engine, but Italians Eugenio Barsanti and Felice Matteucci. It is from them that we have the first patent registration of a device like this, although it was very primitive and would not have been functional as was the German one.

Daimler Reitwagen
The Daimler Reitwagen considered the first motorcycle

Benz: the Renegade who created the First Car

After the death of his father in July 1846, Karl Benz and his mother lived on limited resources for many years. But despite that, she made sure that her son attended a good elementary school and then went on to study mechanical engineering. The young engineer quickly advanced from being a locksmith to becoming a designer and foreman of a workshop.

Carl Benz
Carl Benz around 1900

In 1871, Karl joined forces with the “mechanic” August Ritter to found his first company: ” Karl Benz and August Ritter, Engineering Workshop “, in Mannheim, but Ritter became an unreliable partner, and Karl was forced to buy from him. his part of the company using the dowry of his wife, Bertha Ringer (who was a woman of the German aristocracy), to remain as the absolute owner.

Since 1878, he worked intensively on a gas-powered two-stroke engine to fulfill his dream of having a “horseless vehicle”. After long and laborious attempts to start the engine for the first time on New Year’s Eve 1879, he founded the “ Gasmotorenfabrik Mannheim ” as a joint-stock company in October 1882. Karl’s participation in the company was only 5% because he was not the one who contributed most of the capital and his sponsors gave him only limited influence in the technical areas since they only cared about the safe business of stationary gas engines.

Benz Patent-Motorwagen
Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1885

Karl left the business of his own creation in January 1883 and joined new business partners, Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Esslinger, with whom he founded the business “ Benz & Co. Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik Mannheim ” to launch the System Benz engine the second time. While Karl struggled to implement a purely automotive vision where that invention could possibly be adapted to a wheeled vehicle, Rose and Esslinger, like their former partners at Gasmotorenfabrik Mannheim, were skeptical of this purpose.

In those days, Karl created the world’s first automobile, and with this, he tries to find his new partners, which in cases like this were Julius Ganss and Friedrich von Fischer. They renamed the business “ Benz & Cie. ”And tested the combined stationary and vehicle engine production business model, which was successful and showed that Karl’s approach was right from the start.

Bertha Benz
Bertha Benz around 1870

In 1912, Karl resigned as CEO of the company and transferred sole administrative control of the company to his sons. He witnessed the successful implementation of his ideas until, at the age of 80 (the age at which he died), the former “ridiculed and misunderstood inventor” had become the most important historical reference to the automotive industry in the world.

FACT: The world’s first automobile was the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, and it was created by Karl Benz in 1886. Bertha, Karl’s wife, was the first person to drive it, making her the first person in the world to do so, a car trip. The feat happened in 1888, and it was without the explicit consent of her husband, who had no idea what she was doing. It resulted in a successful 105-kilometer journey, from Mannheim, where they lived, to Pforzheim where Bertha’s mother lived. During the trip, the woman had to act as a mechanic, cleaning the carburetor with the pliers of her hat and using her garters to protect one of the cables.

Controversy over the first car

There are many that claim that the first cars were not made by Benz and Daimler but by Peugeot, the famous French car brand with more than 200 years of tradition. And here are several things that we can clarify:

  1. The first products of the brand were salt shakers and coffee grinders. Then, in the following years, the business included the manufacture of some metal tools. In fact, even today the Peugeot company manufactures these elements, in addition to its cars.
  2. It was not until 1880 that Armand Peugeot became interested in vehicles, specifically bicycles. He launched his first bicycle model in 1882, and that interest naturally led him to ideas that were being considered in the context of the vehicle industry at that time. One of those ideas was that of automobiles (vehicles that could move by themselves).
  3. It is true that the idea of cars is much older than the achievements of Benz and Daimler, and by the time they worked on their models, this idea was discussed by many people, especially the issue of the viability of cars. vehicles that could move by themselves, using different mechanisms (one of which was combustion engines). So it could be said that the works of these Germans were inspired by these global discussions.
  4. It is historically accepted that the first engine adaptable to a vehicle was manufactured by Daimler and that the first automobile was the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. In fact, Armand Peugeot first came up with the idea of building cars after these achievements came to light and after he met Gottlieb Daimler in person in the late 1880s. In that sense, the first known Peugeot car was a steam car that was created in 1889, three years after the Benz Patent-Motorwagen.

Other sources cite that the first cars were Ford’s, but that is even more uncertain because of the timing. Ford’s famous “quad” saw the light of day in 1896, 10 years after the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. In fact, Henry Ford is not even considered as such a founder of the automotive industry in the United States, because by the time he founded his first company, ” The Henry Ford Company “, there were already several car manufacturers in the United States. , like Oldsmobile, Rambler, and Auburn.

Henry Ford’s value was in adapting mass-production models to the automotive industry, which allowed the costs of cars to be reduced to such an extent that they could become accessible goods for a wider public. In fact, he was the first to do this, as all other car brands in the world were based on the traditional model of creating few copies for exclusive customers, usual people with a lot of money.

The contribution of Emil Jellinek and the first “Mercedes”

Due to his untimely death, Gottlieb Daimler could not witness the creation of one of the most outstanding designs that his friend and partner Wilhelm Maybach produced. This car generated great excitement at Nice Race Week in March 1901 and was a powerful and lightweight vehicle with a low center of gravity, thus standing out from all previously built cars. It was called ” 35 HP ” and its development is attributed not only to the genius of Wilhelm Maybach but also to the initiative of Emil Jellinek, an Austrian car dealer who gave it the name of “Mercedes”.

Emil Jellinek and his daughter “Mercedes”

Emil, who was a visionary of automotive marketing, needed a powerful name to serve as a signature for a car as new as this and he came up with the idea of naming them after his daughter: “Mercedes” (explained in more detail below). This name, which also emerged as a way to market cars in England without having problems with previously sold Daimler patents, began to sound a lot in the automotive circles of the time, which is why the brand would be named and so on. it would be registered in 1902.

Mercedes 35 HP
Mercedes 35 HP, the first Daimler model to be marketed as “Mercedes”

Mercedes-Benz: a loveless marriage?

The post-World War I period saw a disproportionate rise in inflation and therefore sales figures were poor, especially for luxury goods like passenger cars. Only strong brands marketed by financially stable companies were able to survive, and companies were often forced into mergers or partnerships.

Mercedes-Benz 500 K-Spezial-Roadster
Mercedes-Benz 500 K-Spezial-Roadster, a model from the mid-30s, at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart (Germany)

For many years, DMG and Benz & Cie were fierce competitors, but this hostile scenario led them to agree to joint ventures and, eventually, in May 1924, to a total merger. They focused on staying competitive through coordinated designs, production techniques, purchasing strategies, sales, and advertising.

The joint marketing activities of the brands “Mercedes” and “Benz” were initially managed by the company “ Mercedes-Benz Automobil GmbH ”, but then, in June 1926, the total union was consolidated with the establishment of the Daimler-Benz Group. or Daimler-Benz AG. The new company presented its first “Mercedes-Benz” product range in October 1926 at the Berlin Motor Show: the W02 and W03 cars.

FACT: One of the star engineers in Daimler’s early days was Ferdinand Porsche, who later became the creator of Porsche cars, starting in 1931, and the Volkswagen (“The People’s Car”), in Hitler’s time. While working for Mercedes-Benz, he created the iconic Mercedes-Benz S, SS, and SSK.

Vehicles for the famous (and not so famous)

For decades, the Mercedes-Benz brand has been used by important people around the world due to the quality of its vehicles and the good taste with which they are made. Let’s see some famous cases:

  1. During the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz produced the Model 770, a popular automobile that was also a favorite of Adolf Hitler, who liked to drive it during his time of rising and already when he was Chancellor because of its bulletproof windshields. Most of the surviving 770 models were sold at auctions to private buyers and one of them is currently on display at the War Museum in Ottawa, Canada.
  2. The popemobile, the popular vehicle in which the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church is transported before the masses, has been manufactured multiple times by the Mercedes-Benz brand.
  3. It has also been the preferred brand of some royal houses, such as the British one. In fact, he starred in the controversial historical event that led to the death of Princess Diana of Wales, who died in a traffic accident, aboard a Mercedes-Benz S280, on August 31, 1997.

FACT: Like all the companies that were in Germany during Hitler’s rise, Daimler AG, owner of the Mercedes-Benz brand, had to collaborate with the government in the imposition of its terror regime and then with the production of military arsenal during the First World War. In 1944, around 46,000 workers were forced to work in Daimler factories to make war vehicles, such as trucks and motorcycles. The company then had to pay $ 12 million in severance pay to the families of these workers.

Some extra curiosities about the brand

  1. Previously, we have said that the name “Mercedes” was inspired by Emil Jellinek’s daughter, but the most curious thing is that the girl was not really called that, but Adrianne; however, everyone called her Mercedes for unknown reasons.
  2. In 1903, Emil Jellinek himself changed his surname to Jellinek-Mercedes after obtaining permission from an Austrian court.
  3. Mercedes-Benz invented the airbag, the famous mechanism to avoid frontal impacts during an accident or very strong braking. The airbag idea came about as an answer to the question of how to keep the driver protected even when not wearing a seat belt.
  4. Another excellent example of Mercedes-Benz’s contributions to safety would be the Pre-Safe system. It was a collision prevention system, something new for the time of its presentation in 2002, since it could detect signals of an imminent collision through certain sensors, also taking a series of measures designed to protect the occupants of the car: from moving the seats to a better position to tighten the seat belts, among other things.
  5. One of the most iconic Mercedes-Benz models, and also one of the most outlandish, was the 300 SL, which began production in 1952. This car had a “futuristic look” and was pioneering in many ways: it was the first commercial car. to use gull doors, the first to have an engine with direct fuel injection and the first model to be considered a “sports car”. But the most curious thing was the nickname he earned: ” Widowmaker ” (“widowmaker”) due to the large number of men who had accidents while driving.
  6. All Mercedes-Benz models have four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment. The front and rear brake systems of all your cars are activated separately so that if one system were to fail, the second would take over to stop the vehicle.
  7. Mercedes-Benz created the first “ robot car ”. In fact, it was its success that prompted the European Union to establish the Eureka PROMETHEUS Project, which involved an enormous amount of funding for research in the area of robotic cars. The model in question was a Mercedes-Benz S-Class that was operated by the German scientist Ernst Dieter Dickmanns and completed a trip from Bavaria (Germany) to Copenhagen (Denmark) without human intervention. We are talking about the year 1995, so a feat like that was more than impressive.
The iconic 300 SL model, better known as the “Widowmaker”, the first supercar in history

The Mercedes-Benz Logo: The three-pointed star

Since September 1902, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) has held the patent for the trademark “Mercedes” and “Benz”; the only thing missing then was a symbol. Gottlieb Daimler’s sons, Paul and Adolf, recalled that their father had previously used a three-pointed star as a signature on some older models, so in June 1909, they recorded that star and additionally recorded a four-pointed star; but it was the three-pointed one that was finally used to adorn the front radiator of the Mercedes-Benz from 1910 onwards.

logo mercedes benz

This star represents the power of its engines, which can be used on land, air, and sea (the three elements of each point), according to the initial concept. Besides, at first, it included the word “Mercedes” with a genuine typeface with all the letters in the upper part and a circle on which there were golden lines and also four three-pointed mini stars surrounding the large one in the center.

This logo changed in 1926, basically the circle, as the mini-stars were eliminated and replaced by two olive branches, one on each side. The word “Mercedes” was placed at the top and the word “Benz” was used for the first time at the bottom, while the large star was reduced following the dimensions of the inner concentric circle.

logo mercedes benz

In 1933, the star and circle were simplified to their finest and became what we know today as the official Mercedes-Benz logo, with no embellishment of any kind. But at the visual marketing level, this 1933 logo had a modification in 1989 that was the addition of depth and brightness to simulate the metallization of the stars that were produced physically.

Marketing and Business: “the best or nothing”

Mercedes-Benz is regarded as the world’s oldest automobile manufacturer, as well as the world’s oldest luxury automobile manufacturer, and it is this in part that underpins the brand’s success. Secondly, there is quality, as Mercedes-Benzes are known for their mechanical innovations that make them very durable and safe cars that differentiates this brand from Italian cars, which, although they are very colorful, do not beat Mercedes-Benz in that regard, for this reason, their slogan is: “the best or nothing.”

mercedes benz

Although the strategy that Mercedes-Benz has used has been to focus on ostentation, safety, and precision engineering in its cars, it is now exploring a more energetic side, for young consumers, lovers of fun and at the same time with more affordable costs. Over the years, the brand has been abandoning that classic-elitist look to try sporting aspects that are more adapted to new trends in design, although with care to maintain mechanical quality.

Also, one of their vital marketing strategies, like that of many other big brands, is sponsorship, especially when it comes to sports. In this area of sponsorship, Mercedes-Benz is one of the founders of the German National Soccer Team, the Bundesliga Club VfB Stuttgart, and has its own stadiums, the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin (Germany), and the Superdome Mercedes-Benz in New Orleans (United States). It was also the engine supplier for the McLaren Racing team from 1995 to 2014.

FACT: In these times where there are serious concerns about the impact of automobiles on the environment, the brand has tried to adapt by creating more fuel-efficient models. It has developed multi-line concept cars with alternative propulsion, such as hybrids and all-electric. It began to show these types of models at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show; Included there was the F700 concept car, powered by a hybrid-electric powertrain. Then in 2009, he showed all three BlueZERO cars at the North American International Auto Show. Each car had a different propulsion system, an electric battery, a fuel cell, and a gasoline-electric hybrid.

mercedes benz

However, from a business point of view, the Daimler AG Group, owner of the Mercedes-Benz brand and also other car brands such as Maybach and Smart, does not seem to be the business today than it was before. At some point, the company had significant stakes in American brands such as Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep, making it the third-largest auto company in the world, after Toyota and General Motors. But in 2007 he dumped those holdings in anticipation of the 2007 Auto Industry Crisis and possible supermassive debt to stay that size.

Today, the Daimler AG Group is much smaller, and although it is still heavily in debt, it produces a profit of 172.75 billion euros a year. It is no longer an independent group but is owned by a set of investment companies and specialized in the automotive sector, among which is the French Renault.

mercedes benz

But we cannot deny that, despite the crisis and the changes in ownership, Mercedes-Benz is an emblematic brand in every sense, that is why it has so many followers on a global scale and has been able to remain among us for so long, as surely it will continue to do so for years to come.

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