Sophistication, elegance, and innovation are three words that describe the brand invited to this installment of the Carventuri Blog series on the origin and trajectory of the great vehicle manufacturers throughout history. The journey through the history of Mercedes-Benz begins. Welcome!
Daimler and Benz, protagonists of the history of Mercedes-Benz
The history of Mercedes Benz began at the end of the 19th century and is closely linked to the very origin of the automobile. Furthermore, it is associated with two great names: Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, visionaries who saw the potential of a new means of transport and began working to make it a reality.
Both Benz and Daimler founded their own companies and worked on their developments and ideas. Legend has it that Karl Benz was the inventor of the first automobile in 1883 ( the Benz Patent-Motorwagen ); a three-wheeled prototype that could reach a top speed of 17 kilometers per hour: a real feat for the time.
Ten years later, Benz also produced the first four-axle vehicle: the Benz Victoria. The foundations were being laid for an invention that would change the history of the world and for a brand that, to this day, is synonymous with luxury and innovation.
Jellinek’s two obsessions
On his own, Daimler, who made significant advances and developments in the area of engines, worked for several years without getting much recognition. However, his luck changed radically when the Austro-Hungarian businessman and diplomat Emil Jellinek drove one of his prototypes and decided to market the brand in France, the United States, Belgium, Austria, and Hungary. Of course, on one condition…
Jellinek was really obsessed with the name Mercedes. Everything he could baptize with this name. Even his eleven-year-old daughter, whose real name was Adrienne, was really called Mercedes by everyone. In short, the eccentric businessman decided to unite his two passions in a single project: cars and (oddly enough) the name Mercedes.
Aboard a Daimler vehicle called Phoenix, Jellinek won the important Nice-Magnanone competition and made the brand known worldwide. Daimler, of course, made the most of the accolade, although his name had faded into the background. The word Mercedes Tax Write off immediately acquired recognition. The 20th century looked good…
A union to survive
But the decade of the ’20s arrived and with it the economic crisis, devastating for both Daimler and Karl Benz. This situation forced them to merge under the name Daimler-Benz AG in 1926. Although everyone, from now on, would know the original brand from Stuttgart, Germany, with the name of Mercedes-Benz, which is still its commercial name.
The brand’s popular logo also originated at this time: the three-pointed star within a circle. There are two possible theories about the emergence of this iconic image. The first is that it represents the ability of Daimler-developed engines to function in all three elements: land, sea, and air. The second is that it came from a postcard that Daimler sent to his daughter indicating the location of the factory in the Bad Cannstatt area of Stuttgart. Whatever the origin, that idea has remained intact for almost a hundred years and is deeply positioned in the hearts of the people.
A decade of innovation
After the merger, the brand new brand presented its first iconic car: the Mercedes-Benz SSK and its lightweight version, the SSKL. With 300 horsepower, this machine could reach muscle pumping more than 230 kilometers per hour. Immediately, it swept racing circuits around the world, and “big animal steps” began to be felt. A lot of water had run under the bridge since Karl Benz presented the prototype of it that reached 17 kilometers per hour.
In the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz already had a clear vocation: luxury and high-performance cars. During these years it presented emblematic models such as the 500 K, the 540 K, 170 V, and the Type 230. In addition, in 1936 the 260 D arrived, the first diesel-powered passenger car, a real advance. But then came the war.
The history of Mercedes-Benz: from the ashes to Formula 1
During World War II, it has to be said that Mercedes-Benz was on the wrong side of history. The final balance, after the defeat of the Nazi regime (and with it the fall of the German people), was the loss of 90% of its facilities. For less combative spirits, it would have been the end of the story.
But like the rest of the Germans, Mercedes-Benz rebuilt itself from the ashes. Under the direction of Alfred Neubauer, the brand decided to maintain its commitment to luxury and high-performance cars. And to once again strengthen the brand, they carried out a powerful strategy: to show the world the power of their vehicles, they convinced three great Formula 1 drivers of the time to join their ranks: Hermann Lang, Karl Kling, and the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio. The idea worked. Aboard the unbeatable 300 SL, the three drivers occupied the first places on the podium and Mercedes-Benz managed to position itself in Formula 1 (of which it is still the protagonist) and other competitions. Likewise, it was the initial fee for a successful reconstruction.
Mercedes-Benz should always be similar to Mercedes-Benz
Bruno Sacco, the creator of the emblematic W123 series, was the one who said this phrase in the early ’70s. With this statement, he marked the aesthetic line on how a vehicle of the brand should look from then on. More than 40 years later, the guidelines proposed by Sacco in this iconic line are maintained.
The first S-Class and G-Class models, and the C, E, and M-Class models also stand out from this decade, whose objective was to impact other segments and (as far as possible) democratize the brand. These lines have evolved and continue to develop with great success.
History of Mercedes-Benz: the present
The development of the brand from then on was stable and constant. A couple of decades later, in 1998, Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler merged, becoming the third-largest automobile group in the world.