The Phenomenal Early Success of Mercedes
May 5, 2009
The first ever-recorded time the name Mercedes was used in conjunction with a vehicle was in 1900 when Wilhelm Maybach produced a newly designed engine built to the specifications of Emil Jellinek. Maybach delivered the new engine to Jellinek on December 22, 1900. It was officially known as the Daimler-Mercedes. The automobile would come to be known as the Mercedes 35hp.
Originally, the name Mercedes was only a brandname of a corporation known as Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) founded in part by Gottlieb Daimler. The beginnings of the use of the name Mercedes can be traced back to Emil Jellinek. Jellinek was a racing enthusiast who had been racing DMG vehicles. He had had his daughter’s name, Mercedes, painted for good luck on the cars he raced. After some success in racing and in his automobile dealership, Jellinek entered into an agreement with DMG for a line of sports cars to race officially. Part of the terms of the agreement between Jellinek and DMG was that the official name of the engines for these cars would be Mercedes. Jellinek's subsequent success in racing these cars eventually landed him a position on the board of directors for DMG. Word quickly spread about the success of the sports cars that Jellinek had designed and people soon began to want one for themselves. These were the very first Mercedes and the official designation would be the Mercedes 35hp. Wanting to capitalize on the early success of the first Mercedes, DMG quickly began to apply the name Mercedes to other models such as the Mercedes 8/11 and the Mercedes 40hp Simplex.
When DMG merged with Benz & Cie, the company officially became Daimler-Benz AG. For legal reasons related to DMG’s early interactions with foreign companies, they were unable to use the name of the founder in some countries so they went with the name of their most sought after vehicles, the Mercedes, thus the Mercedes-Benz was born.
Emil Jellinek’s involvement in the design of new models has been credited for the company’s early success and his exacting specifications have reached far into the future to influence the design concepts of Mercedes-Benz even today.
He was quoted as saying of the new models he had built ,“I don’t want a car for today or tomorrow, it will be the car of the day after tomorrow”. This long-range vision influenced the new parameters he laid down for the car’s designs. His goal was to overcome what he felt were inadequacies of the cars of the day. His opinion was that someone had simply placed an engine on a carriage. He sought to renovate the problems of the “horseless carriage” and make new vehicles more suitable for high speeds and driving in less than ideal conditions. Of particular concern to him was the high risk of overturning at anything but the lowest of speeds. To remedy these design flaws he specified the following changes: Longer wheelbase and wider track to improve stability, Engine placed on the car’s chassis, a lower center of gravity and utilization of the new Bosch system for electronic ignition.
The spectacular results of these design changes took the automotive world by storm and DMG saw sales skyrocket. These innovative concepts changed the way the world viewed and used automobiles.
Over the years, Mercedes-Benz has developed a reputation of luxury, reliability and safety that were based on the changes made by Jellinek. These qualities have persisted into the 21st century and have placed the Mercedes Benz Corporation at the top in terms of automobile manufacturers, a spot it does not plan to relinquish anytime soon.
Ronnie Tanner is a contributing writer at SW Engines. He writes about used Mercedes engines and other related industry specific topics for the company.
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