- This page is about the Mercedes-Benz brand of automobiles and trucks from the DaimlerChrysler automobile manufacturer. For other uses of the name Mercedes, see Mercedes.
Mercedes-Benz is a brand of automobiles and trucks from the DaimlerChrysler company (formerly known as Daimler-Benz), commonly known as Mercedes. Mercedes-Benz is the world's oldest automobile manufacturer. Their cars have a reputation for high quality.
The origin of the company dates back to the 1880s, when Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz invented the internal combustion engine-powered automobile independently, in southwestern Germany. Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, who together invented the four-stroke engine, worked together in Cannstatt (a city district of Stuttgart); Benz had his shop in Mannheim near Heidelberg. There is no record of the two inventors ever having met.
In the early 1900s, the Daimler cars built at Untertürkheim (also a city district of Stuttgart) were raced successfully by an Austrian dealer named Emil Jellinek, who entered the cars under the name of his daughter, Mercédès. After suggesting some design modifications, he promised the company a large order on the conditions that he was granted the exclusive Daimler concession for Austria-Hungary, France, Belgium and USA, and that he would sell the cars branded as "Mercedes." The name change was also helpful in preventing legal troubles, as Daimler had sold exclusive rights to the name and technical concepts to companies abroad. As a result, luxury cars known as Daimler were and are built in England. A fire that gutted the old Steinway piano factory in New York that had been converted to produce Mercedes cars cut short the dream of an American-built Mercedes.
The rival companies of Daimler Motorengesellschaft and Benz & Cie. started to cooperate in the 1920s to deal with the economic crisis of those years, and finally merged in 1926 to become the Daimler-Benz AG, which produced Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks. The brand's logo is the three-pointed silver star enclosed in a circle, which symbolizes Daimler's original quest to provide small powerful engines to travel on land, sea and air. While focusing on land vehicles, Mercedes-Benz also built engines to power boats and airplanes (military and civil), and even Zeppelins.
Mercedes-Benz vehicles have a focus on high quality and state of the art engineering. As a result they have often been expensive and are made in lower volumes compared to cheaper cars. The company has carefully cultivated an image of superior engineering, quality, and service. The cars are often the vehicle of choice for the rich and famous. Perhaps most famous for limousine models, a number of notable sports cars have also been produced. For example, the early supercharged SSK developed by Porsche, and the Gullwing 300SL in 1954. However, Mercedes-Benz has also produced higher volume, less expensive cars. Interestingly, the prototypes of the Volkswagen were built and tested in Stuttgart, in an cooperation with Porsche. Before that, Mercedes-Benz also had a similar rear-engined, yet rather unsuccessful small car, the 130 H .
Their products have been known for the introduction of advanced technologies to cars—notably fuel injection and anti-lock braking systems, amongst many others.
Mercedes-Benz has been successful in motor racing throughout their history. The Mercedes Simplex of the early 1900s was the first purpose built race car, much lower than the usual designs that were similar to horse carriages; it dominated racing for years.
In 1914, just before the beginning of the war, Mercedes won the French Grand Prix, which was a blow to the French at that time. Benz raced an aerodynamically shaped Tropfenwagen in the 1920s. In the 1930s, with their mighty Silver Arrows, they dominated Grand Prix racing in Europe (together with rivals Auto Union), while setting speed records up to 435 km/h (270 mph). The team was guided by the big Rennleiter Alfred Neubauer.
In 1952, Mercedes-Benz returned to racing with their small and underpowered gullwinged 300 SL, which won the 24 hours of Le Mans, the Carrera Panamericana, and other important races of that time. On July 4, 1954, Mercedes-Benz returned to Formula One racing with a one-two win at the French Grand Prix. This was a very important victory, especially as later that day, the German football team won the Soccer world championship. Until the end of the 1955 season, Mercedes dominated Grand Prix and sports car racing before retiring its teams after a terrible 1955 crash at Le Mans, where a Mercedes 300 SLR collided with another car and killed over 80 spectators.
Mercedes entered some big limousines in Rallying in the 1960s and late 1980s. They returned to sportscar and touring car racing in the late 1980s. In 1994, a Mercedes-powered car won the Indianapolis 500. Also in the 1990s, Mercedes made its return to Formula One as an engine supplier (with McLaren), winning one constructors' championship and two drivers' championships.
However, recent years have seen a significant decline in Mercedes' F1 success, as they have won just four races over the last three years, while suffering numerous engine failures and retirements. Still teamed with McLaren, they hope to improve upon a dismal 2004 season, which saw McLaren-Mercedes finish a distant fifth in the championship, a staggering 193 points behind world champion Ferrari.
More recently, the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren has become available for purchase, the 2005 model coming out with a base price of $452,750.00. The new model will have a top speed of 207 MPH and a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds.
Mercedes-Benz claims all of the wood used in its modern automobiles is raised on tree farms. This claim has not been confirmed.
Michael McClure's song "Mercedes-Benz", famously sung a cappella by Janis Joplin, was intended as a gentle satire on materialism, but has been used in the company's advertising.
On a BMW advertisement on German TV the driver of a BMW Z3 convertible raised his eyebrows after the first "buy me a Mercedes-Benz", and threw out the tape after "my friends all drive Porsches".
Mercedes-Benz was the most popular brand name mentioned in Billboard Top 20 songs in 2003.
Since 1948, Mercedes-Benz has built the Unimog, or "Universal Motor Gerät", a 4WD truck. It features extreme offroad capability due to offset axles and elastic frame, drive shafts for numerous additional machines, hydraulic and pneumatic connections etc. Despite its high price, the Unimog is popular as allround work horse, as snow plow, expedition vehicle in desert, jungle and mountains, and it has won the truck class at high speed desert races like Paris-Dakar.
The three-pointed star signifies that Daimler-Benz made engines used "in the air, on water and on land"
Selected significant past models
- Mercedes-Benz U.S.A. Mercedes-Benz. Retrieved December 21, 2003 from 
List of Mercedes-Benz engines
Last updated: 10-10-2005 06:45:08