The origins of Mercedes-Benz (the world’s oldest continually running automotive brand) go back to 1886, to the very invention of the automobile. That was the year Karl Benz patented his Benz Patent Motorwagen, the first vehicle designed to be an automobile form the ground up. Patented January 29, 1886, it was described as an automobile fueled by gas. Predictably, it was also the first car to crash, when it ran into a wall during a demonstration run.
But we digress.
The first car to be called a Mercedes was offered in 1901 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. Mercedes was the daughter of Emil Jellinek, one of Daimler’s best customers. Jellinek was also a successful racer of Daimler’s cars, which attracted a great deal of attention to the products.
Ironically, Daimler and Benz never worked together. By the time Benz & Company Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik, and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, were merged to form Daimler-Benz in 1926, Daimler was dead, Maybach had left to found his own company, and Benz was 81 years old. Karl Benz died three years later in 1929, at the age of 84. The three-pointed star Mercedes-Benz logo refers to the fact the company’s engines are used on land, water and in the sky.
The name Mercedes-Benz was applied to the first Daimler-Benz car—built in 1926. One of the hallmarks of new Mercedes-Benz cars has always been the pursuit of engineering excellence. The first passenger car to use an independent suspension system was a 1931 Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz is also credited with the creation of the modern supercar, with the introduction of the 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL gullwing automobiles.
Also during the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz introduced the first car with crumple zones designed to absorb impact energy in a crash, rather than transmitting it into the passenger compartment. Four-wheel brakes, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, airbags, stability control, and traction control all first appeared on new Mercedes-Benz models as well. And while Google gets a lot of press for its driverless car, the first driverless car was built by Mercedes-Benz in the 1980s. In fact, in 1995, a driverless Mercedes-Benz S-Class ran at speeds of over 100 miles per hour on the autobahn.