The History of the Mercedes-Benz Company

We all know the Mercedes-Benz of today but what do you know about how the German brand became one of the biggest in the world?

In this article we’ll give you a look at the history of Mercedes, the people who created it and why the brand was so important in the development of the car we know today.

The People Behind Mercedes

The Mercedes-Benz brand of today has several key figures in its history who we want to highlight, these include the Benz’, Gottlieb Daimler and Emil Jellinek. Through these historical figures we’re going to explore the history of the brand and how it evolved.

Carl and Bertha Benz

Carl Benz was born in 1844. Growing up his mother ensured he received a good education, going to grammar schools and then onto study mechanical engineering before he entered the working world. He started as a locksmith and quickly climbed the ladder, progressing to a designer and then a workshop foreman for the company. However, Carl had always dreamed of designing a functional motorcar.

In 1871 he struck out on his own with co-founder August Ritter to create their own company the Carl Benz and August Ritter Engineering Workshop. However, Ritter soon left leaving Carl alone to continue working on their gas-driven two-stroke engine. It would be this engine that would help him realise his lifetime dream of creating a working self-powered motor vehicle. It was on New Year’s Eve 1879 that Carl managed to get this engine working and took one step closer to achieving his dream.

In October 1882 he went on to found a new company, the Gasmotorenfabrik Mannheim (Mannheim Gas Engine Factory). But he would only remain at the business for under a year due to a conflict in visions between Carl and the other shareholders. Carl wanted to focus on the motor engine but the rest of the company preferred the safer business of stationary gas engines.

So, in January 1883 he went on to found a new company with Max Rose and Friedrich Wilhelm Esslinger called Benz & Cie. However, Carl ran into a difference of opinion again over the direction the business should take on whether to focus on the stationary engine or developing a motorcar engine Rose and Esslinger were eventually replaced by Julius Ganss and Friedrich von Fischer in 1890. The business diversified and produced both stationary and vehicle engines which proved to be a successful strategy and the company grew to become Germany’s second-largest engine manufacturer. By the end of the century Benz & Cie will also become the world’s leading producer or automotives.

The economic breakthrough came when they produced the four-wheel motorised Velocipede in 1894. The lightweight two-seater was reasonably priced and on the market for seven years. Benz & Cie made almost 1,200 models and so it’s considered the first mass-produced automobile.

Carl married his wife Bertha in 1872, and without her support and investment Benz & Cie would not have become the success that it was. She provided him with unconditional emotional support through the challenges he faced at Gasmotorenfabrik Mannheim and invested her dowry and later inheritance into his vision, including the Benz & Cie company when he went on to set this up.

In 1888 Bertha was the first person to use a petrol-fuelled automobile to drive a substantial distance to bring publicity to her husband’s creation and prove its durability and capability. She drove 100 kilometres from her home in Mannheim to Pforzheim to visit her mother.

Although Carl was happy with the successes he’d had at Benz & Cie his vision was always a dedicated motorcar company and so in 1906 he starts his final company – Carl Benz Söhne (Carl Benz & Sons) where he maintained an active role until his death in 1929. The business would be passed to his sons to run in 1912 and then become part of the Daimler-Benz AG company, which Carl would sit on the board of.

Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler was born in 1834 and after completing his schooling in Germany he went on to spend time in France and England learning different technical activities before returning to Geislingen as a draftsman in 1862.

In late 1863 he was appointed a workshop inspector in a machine factory in Reutlingen. This would be a pivotal moment in his life as it is at this factory he would meet Wilhelm Maybach and change his life.

Working as a technical director for Deutz Gasmotorenfabrik allowed Gottlieb to become familiar with the four-stroke engine technology they use there and would lead him to set up his own development workshop to create a petrol-powered four-stroke engine. Together with Wilhelm Maybach he developed an internal combustion engine that is today known as the Grandfather Clock. It had a compact, low-weight design that was ideal for installing in a vehicle.

In November of 1890 Gottlieb founded the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) Company with Max Duttenhofer and Wilhelm Lorenz and hired Wilhelm Maybach to continue the development of their combustion engine. Just like Carl though Gottlieb ran into a barrier when his business partners wanted to focus on the safer option of stationary engines. In fact, this lead to Wilhelm Maybach resigning in 1891 though he continued to help his friend Gottlieb with designs. Tension continued to rise between Gottlieb and the other shareholders but this was eventually resolved in 1895 and Gottlieb returned having previously been pushed out as a shareholder. Wilhelm Maybach also returned to the business and together they designed the Phoenix engine which went on to have great success internationally.

Gottlieb would hold a position on the Technical Board and become the Inspector General of the Supervisory Board before his death in March of 1900.

Wilhelm Maybach

We’ve already mentioned Wilhelm Maybach in regards to his work with Gottlieb but we also wanted to discuss the developments he made on his own.

When he returned to DMG in 1895 he worked with Gottlieb to design the Phoenix engine as well as innovative technology developments on engines and other aspects of vehicles to re-establish the brand at the forefront of the automotive industry.

Gottlieb’s death in 1900 was followed by Max Duttenhofer’s in 1903 and Wilhelm’s relationship with DMG began to deteriorate again leading to his second resignation in 1907.

Wilhelm decided it was time to go into business for himself and with his sons he created the Maybach company. This company would become recognised worldwide for their legendary luxury vehicles that provide an unparalleled level of opulence for drivers willing to pay the price.

Maybach has since been purchased by the Daimler-Benz AG brand and continue to produce highly luxurious models under the Maybach moniker.

Emil Jellinek

Emil Jellinek is not a name widely known and associated with the Mercedes-Benz brand but was a crucial part of the business’ name development.

He was born in 1853 and unlike the other men we’ve looked at he left school as soon as he was able to – wanting to get out into the working world as soon as possible. He first worked in the rail industry and then became a successful merchant trader in North Africa. After a few successful years in Africa Emil decided to return to Europe in 1889, bringing with him his wife and young children.

It was in Europe that Emil discovered his love of motorcars, first with a De Dion-Bouton tricycle, then a three-wheel Léon-Bollée Voiturette which was followed by one of Carl Benz’ four-seat carriages.

In 1897 Emil visited the Daimler factory and placed his order for the first Daimler car he would drive, which was a determining event in his life. The 6 hp belt-driven model with a two-cylinder engine had a top speed of 24 kmph, which was fast for the time. However, it soon felt too slow for Emil who requested a model capable of 40 kmph. In under a year from when he requested a faster model Emil received two Phoenix cars in the September of 1898.

That was the same year that Emil began to seriously deal in cars, using his contacts at Daimler, in the international finance industry and in European aristocracy to do so. As he promoted and sold more models he began asking DMG for increasingly powerful and faster cars that he would not only sell but enter, and win, motor races with them. His racing pseudonym was his daughter’s name – Mercedes. It was because of his racing success that the vehicles became known internationally within motoring circles and in 1900 Emil and DMG struck and agreement on his sales that included the condition that a new form of engine would be named Daimler-Mercedes.

The first Daimler-Mercedes was developed by Wilhelm Maybach and delivered to Emil in December of the same year. It caused quite a stir in the racing community as it had a low centre of gravity, pressed steel frame and lightweight but powerful engine.

In 1902 Mercedes was registered as a brand name based on the success of the first Daimler-Mercedes model.

It is because of Emil that Mercedes is called Mercedes.

Daimler and Benz Join Forces

Up until the 1920s Daimler and Benz were two fiercely competing businesses who were trying to outperform each other. However, following WW2 and the impact it had across Europe including the automotive industry they decided to work together to create the Mercedes-Benz Automobil GmbH which allowed them to remain competitive in the wider market by coordinating design, production techniques, purchasing, sales and advertising. It wasn’t until 1926 that they officially became one company with the formation of Daimler-Benz AG.

Since then, the brand has gone on to create a number of class-leading models that are recognised around the world for their high quality materials, build quality and performance. To see what they have on offer today just click on one of the deal tabs at the top of the page.

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