‘Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz.. my friends all drive Porches I must make amends…’ so the song goes.
The Mercedes-Benz is special. So special that God can ‘buy it for you’ (according to Janis Joplin) - but where did this desirable gift come from? And why do we still associate it with such unparalleled quality?
“Since inventing the car we’ve never stopped reinventing it.”
With headquarters in Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg and known across the world for its luxury vehicles, buses, coaches and trucks- the German automobile brand Mercedes Benz is credited with the creation of the first petrol-powered car in 1886.
The Benz Patent Motorwagen was created by automobile inventor Carl Benz and financed by his business partner and wife Bertha Benz. In 1901, the Daimler Motors Corporation (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft) marketed the first Mercedes.
This ‘horse-less’ automobile was first successfully promoted by Austrian entrepreneur Emil Jellinek; selling to the highest circles of European society, but it didn’t take long for US billionaires to start buying them too – notably Rockefeller and Astor. By 1926, the first Mercedes-Benz vehicles were produced, following a merger between Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler’s company.
Today Mercedes-Benz are still at the forefront of automobile innovation – constantly pushing the boundaries of design and technology and exploring ways to make motoring more sustainable.
Part 1 Carl Benz: After studying mechanical engineering, then working as a locksmith, designer and workshop foreman – Carl Benz founded his first company with August Ritter in Mannheim in 1871. The partnership wasn’t a success and they parted ways, but Benz continued alone and started working diligently on his gas-driven two-stroke engine. The engine ran for the first time on New Year’s Eve 1879.
Benz’s desire to create a ‘vehicle without horses’ lead to several more investors (and companies) over the next few decades while he pursued ways of making his ideas a reality. With Julius Ganss and Friedrich von Fischer, Benz enjoyed a successful business combining the production of stationary and vehicle engines – but preferring to produce moving vehicles he eventually moves to establish Carl Benz & Sons in 1906.
The System-Benz engine was an official success and despite the struggle of the ‘once ridiculed and misunderstood inventor’ – in the last few years of his life Benz finally got the recognition that he deserved. In 1926, Carl Benz’s company merged with DMG to create Mercedes-Benz. When Benz died in 1929 aged 85, he had lived long enough to witness the growth of motorisation and his ideas realised.
Bertha Benz: Carl and Bertha married in July 1872. A woman of means, Bertha helped to finance her husband’s inventions. But it was her ‘pioneering spirit’ that helped to market the new automobile – on 5th August 1888, Bertha was the first person to drive long-distance in a petrol-driven car (the 3rd version of the Patent Motor Car, complete with solid wooden spoked wheels). With her two teenage sons Eugen and Richard as passengers, she drove 100km from Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her mother. This journey would not have been without difficulty and indeed at times required considerable skill - but Bertha had proved her point – this vehicle was reliable and the world was about to change.
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