The origins of the Daimler-Benz company founded
through a merger in 1926 date back to the mid-1880s, when Gottlieb Daimler
(1834-1900) working with Wilhelm Maybach (1846-1929), and Karl Benz
(1844-1929) independently invented the internal combustion engine-powered
automobile, in south-western Germany. Although they were merely sixty miles
apart, these pioneers were unaware of each other's early work.
Benz Patent Motorwagen 1886
The first logo of Mercedes-Benz from the 1926 merger of the companies of
Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. Karl Benz had his shop in Mannheim and
invented the world's first true automobile powered by an internal combustion
engine in 1885. It had three wheels. He was granted a patent for his
automobile, dated January 29, 1886, for what he called the "Benz Patent
Motorwagen". Among many inventions, Benz patented his first engine in 1879
and included in his 'integral' design for the Motorwagen patent application,
a high-speed single-cylinder four-stroke engine of his own design.
In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler and design partner Wilhelm Maybach, working in
Cannstatt, Stuttgart, were granted a patent dated August 29, 1885 for what
is generally recognized as the prototype of the modern gas engine, that they
named the "grandfather clock engine".
Benz Velo 1894
On March 8, 1886, Daimler purchased a stagecoach made by Wilhelm Wimpff &
Sohn and he and Maybach adapted it to hold this engine, thereby creating a
four-wheeled carriage propelled by an engine, as many had before them. The
only distinction about this carriage was that it carried an internal
combustion engine. None of many similar attempts to adapt carts, boats, or
carriages, in many countries, were propelled by this type of engine. On the
official history pages of the Mercedes-Benz Internet site it is referred to
as "a carriage — without a drawbar but with the conventional drawbar
steering. A carriage without horses..." Daimler and Maybach later purposely
built, from scratch, the first four-stroke engine powered automobile with
four wheels in 1889. They founded DMG in 1890 and sold their first
automobile in 1892.
Stationary engines were his major business and he invented many improvements
to them and their application, but Karl Benz continued to refine his
Motorwagen through several models and sold his first automobile in 1888. He
built his first four-wheeled model in 1891. Benz & Cie, the company started
by the inventor, became not only the world's first, but also largest
manufacturer of automobiles by 1900.
In 1899, DMG automobiles built at Untertürkheim (a city district of
Stuttgart) were raced successfully by Emil Jellinek (1853-1918), an
automobile enthusiast and dealer. He had the name of his daughter, Mercedes,
painted on the automobiles for good luck. Wanting faster race cars, it was
Jellinek who spurred the development of the seminal 1900 DMG model that
would be the first of the DMG Mercedes series, bearing the name of his
After suggesting some design specifications, he promised to purchase
thirty-six of the new DMG model if Maybach would name the new 35 hp engine
contained in it the Daimler-Mercedes engine. A contract of five hundred and
fifty thousand marks was made for these new models. Within weeks he
contracted for thirty-six of another DMG model with 8 hp engines. He was
granted an exclusive concession to sell the new DMG automobiles in
Austria-Hungary, France, Belgium, and USA.
That new model later would be named "Mercedes 35 hp" and it was a very
important advance in automobile design. The contract called for delivery of
the first automobile to Jellinek in the Fall, but it did not reach him until
December 22, 1900. He became obsessed with the name Mercedes and even had
his name changed to Jellinek-Mercedes. Jellinek was invited to sit on the
DMG board of directors, which he did from 1901 until 1909, when he retired
from automotive activities in favor of diplomatic appointments.
The name change also was helpful in preventing legal troubles, because after
the death of Daimler, DMG had sold exclusive rights to the name, Daimler,
and technical concepts to companies abroad. As a result, luxury automobiles
branded Daimler were, and still are, built in England. A fire that gutted
the old Steinway piano factory in New York, which had been converted to
produce the new Mercedes models, cut short the dream of American production.
1934 Mercedes-Benz Silver 500K
1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK "Count Trossi" in the Ralph Lauren collection. The
rival companies of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) and Benz & Cie.
started to cooperate in 1924, due to necessity arising from a troubled
German economy after World War I, and finally merged in 1926 to become
Daimler-Benz AG, which produced Mercedes-Benz automobiles and trucks. The
merger agreement established that the two companies were required to remain
together until 2000. While focusing on land vehicles, Mercedes-Benz also
built engines to power boats and airplanes (military and civil), and even
Zeppelins. Karl Benz died in 1929.
1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK "Count Trossi"
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe from the Ralph Lauren
collection.Although the brand is most famous for limousine models, a
significant number of notable sports cars have also been produced. For
example, the early supercharged SSK developed by Ferdinand Porsche. Another
distinctive model was the iconic 300SL Gullwing of 1954; that was suggested
by Max Hoffman, explicitly for the USA market, and introduced at the New
York Automobile Show.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe
Mercedes-Benz has also produced higher volume, less expensive cars.
Interestingly, the prototypes of the Volkswagen were built and tested in
Stuttgart, in cooperation with Porsche. Before that, Mercedes-Benz had a
similar rear-engined, yet rather unsuccessful, small car, the 130 H. In
recent years Mercedes have produced the A-Class, relatively inexpensive
compared to its other models. Also the Smart brand of small affordable
automobiles has been part of the Mercedes-Benz Group since 1994 and are
still producing cars today in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler AG.
Since its inception, Mercedes-Benz has been known for its uncompromising
emphasis on quality and durability. Increased focus on costs and volume, and
the dramatically increased complexity in modern automobile electronics led
to plummeting quality in the late 1990s and early 2000s. By 2005, Mercedes
had risen back to the industry average for initial quality (if the
"complexity" variable was ignored), according to J.D. Power. In 2006,
however, Mercedes lashed out against Consumer Reports after the report on
new cars for 2007 found Mercedes occupying 3 of the 6 worst quality luxury
cars, 3 of the 7 worst quality sports cars, and the single least reliable
SUV (as well as the fourth least reliable). Mercedes claimed that the
results from both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power were not in keeping with
their internal data. Many consumers, however, have complained that the
company's responses to customer concerns have not been in line with what
you'd expect from a prestige brand of unmatched illustrious history.