"The love of invention never dies" - from the Benz Patent-Motorwagen to the reinvention of the automobile
It was on January 29, 1886 that Carl Benz filed an application in Berlin for a patent on his three-wheeled motor car. That day has since come to be considered the official birthday of the automobile, which celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2011. In parallel with Benz, Gottlieb Daimler was developing the first four-wheeled motor car. Thus, working independently of each other, the founding fathers of today's Daimler AG and its globally successful Mercedes-Benz core brand laid the foundation stone for all present-day passenger cars, commercial vehicles and buses. Since then, the company that invented the automobile has gone on to shape its development more diversely and enduringly than any other motor vehicle manufacturer - in all relevant areas, from drive technology through comfort and safety to design.
Innovation has always been the key to success for a car manufacturer and is set to become even more important in future. Without the courage to go in search of new ideas, there would be no automobile; and without innovation, there would be
no progress. Mercedes-Benz, the inventor of the automobile, has always pressed ahead vigorously with its development. For instance, the company has repeatedly underpinned its claim to technological leadership with over 80,000 patent applications since 1886, the year in which Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler respectively unveiled their "Patent-Motorwagen" and "Motorkutsche". As the world's first car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen is a shining example of the pioneering spirit. In its day, the exquisitely engineered three-wheeler made it clear at first sight that a new age of mobility had dawned. Daimler's motorized carriage was the first automobile with four wheels.
These two vehicles represent the start of a unique success story – a story that Mercedes-Benz has continuously enhanced with new chapters. Time and again groundbreaking inventions from the Stuttgart-based car manufacturer have seen the "horseless carriage", which was initially said by critics to have "no future", evolve not only into an icon of personal freedom, but also into a major economic powerhouse. Alongside the first bus and the first heavy truck, the company's most important innovations also include the first modern passenger car, the Mercedes 35 HP, which was presented in February 1900.
Mercedes 35 hp - the origin of all modern passenger cars
At the turn of the century, the Mercedes 35 hp - the origin of all modern passenger cars - defined a fundamentally new vehicle architecture that has prevailed to this day. It marked the transition from the long-legged "motor carriage" to the automobile as we know it today. The key technical characteristics were its long wheelbase, wide track, low center of gravity and angled steering column. These improvements created the basis for comfortable and safe driving, and were realized for the first time in a Mercedes.
Further distinctive characteristics included the elongated form and honeycomb radiator integrated organically into the front, which finally solved the ubiquitous problem of engine cooling and ultimately became a distinguishing feature of the brand. With its aluminum crankcase, the powerful four-cylinder engine served as a model for today's still current lightweight design and was mounted low in the frame. Its exhaust valves were controlled by a camshaft, which significantly improved running characteristics, stability at idle and acceleration. The construction principle of "engine at the front and driven rear wheels" was to establish itself as the enduring standard drive layout.
The first Mercedes – the first modern automobile
The "35 hp" was the first vehicle to sport the Mercedes brand name and went down in history as the first modern-day motor car. Many other manufacturers were to copy this innovative concept, which proved to be superior in every respect. Mercedes-Benz thus staked an early claim to leadership in technology and design.
Spirit of innovation as a driving force behind car development
Thanks to its design creativity, Mercedes-Benz has been a key driver of automotive progress, repeatedly reinventing individual mobility and opening up new applications. Its power of innovation has turned Mercedes-Benz into an automotive manufacturer with a unique and diverse product offering. Today, the brand with the star encompasses a range of vehicles that stretches from compact passenger cars such as the A-Class to luxury sedans like the S-Class; vans like the Sprinter; buses like the Citaro and heavy-duty trucks such as the Actros. The smart brand adds to the product portfolio with a vehicle that is, for many, the perfect city car. Today's smart fortwo dates back to a Mercedes-Benz study, presented in the early 1980s – the NAFA "short-distance vehicle". The two-seater concept was the starting point of a twin-track development program that gave rise in the 1990s to the company's first compact cars - the A-Class and the smart city coupe, the predecessor of today's smart fortwo.
Time and again, Mercedes-Benz has been at the forefront of new personal mobility concepts that have also opened up entirely new market segments. The SLK, unveiled in 1996, was the first compact premium roadster. This was followed one year later by the M-Class, the first premium SUV, which saw Mercedes engineers call on their extensive expertise in all-wheel drive garnered from the legendary G-Class and Unimog. The most recent example is the CLS, which in 2004 established the four-door coupe segment. Furthermore, the sheer breadth of technical innovations that first came to market in Mercedes models is clear proof that the inventor of the automobile has played a leading role in driving forward all key aspects of its development – from drive technology through safety and comfort to design.
Mercedes-Benz engine technology - a driving force in all areas
Mercedes-Benz has been a pioneer in engine technology for 125 years. The highspeed gasoline engine was, in the truest sense of the word, the "driving force" behind the invention of the automobile. The Daimler 8 hp "Phaeton", unveiled in 1898, was the first road-going vehicle to feature a four-cylinder engine. In 1923, Benz launched the first diesel truck. Another groundbreaking Mercedes innovation was a diesel engine suitable for use in passenger cars, introduced in 1936 - in the world's first series production diesel passenger car, the Mercedes- Benz 260 D.
In the years since, Mercedes-Benz has set a succession of further milestones in the development of the compression-ignition engine. A host of technical innovations, such as the turbocharged common rail diesel (CDI), have resulted in greater power and torque along with better fuel economy and reduced emissions. Today, Mercedes-Benz is present in all segments of the market with a range of models powered by smooth-running, torquey and highly efficient CDI engines which – in relation to their output - consume up to ten times less fuel than the diesel pioneer of 1936.
BlueTEC - making the diesel as clean as the modern gasoline engine
With BlueTEC, Mercedes-Benz has also developed a technology that effectively minimizes diesel emissions, particularly nitrogen oxides. Up to 90 percent of NOx in the exhaust gas is broken down into harmless nitrogen and water, making the diesel engine as clean as the modern gasoline engine. Passenger cars with BlueTEC have been available from Mercedes-Benz since 2006 and now feature in the E- and S-Class, as well as the GL-, R- and M-Class SUVs.
Developed originally for Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles, BlueTEC made its debut in a Mercedes heavy truck in 2005, after which it was adapted for application in passenger cars. This example illustrates one of the company's particular strengths - in-house cross-sector technology transfer, which helps to ensure that innovations with great benefits for the customer are implemented quickly and consistently across the entire product range.
Modern Mercedes-Benz engines with great future potential
The future potential of the internal combustion engine was reinforced by Mercedes-Benz with the 2010 launch of its new S250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY (European model), the first "five-liter" car in the luxury class. The first fourcylinder engine in the over 60-year success story of the S-Class – a highly efficient twin-turbocharged diesel – achieves fuel consumption of just 5.7 liters per 100 kilometers in the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle). With CO2 emissions of 149 g/km, the S250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY is the first vehicle in its class to better the 150 gram mark.
From the first supercharged engine to the modern direct-injection gasoline engine
The inventor of the automobile has also played a key role in the development of the spark-ignition engine. Back in the early 1920s, the then Daimler Motor Company adapted mechanical supercharging, which had originally been developed for aircraft engines, for use in automobiles. Thanks to supercharger technology, the Mercedes 6/25 hp and 10/40 hp models offered greater power and higher efficiency than comparable naturally aspirated vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz introduced the first series-produced four-stroke direct-injection gasoline engine in its legendary 300 SL sports car from 1954. This technology was used at the time primarily for boosting power output. Today, however, Mercedes engineers combine it with other technologies for increased efficiency, i.e. for significantly reduced fuel consumption combined with increased performance.
The Mercedes-Benz strategy for the internal combustion engine of today and tomorrow is: consistent use of direct injection in both gasoline and diesel engines, downsizing, turbocharging, variable valve timing. With the introduction in fall 2009 of the new four-cylinder turbocharged direct-injection gasoline engine in the E-Class in Europe, Mercedes-Benz set about implementing this strategy - from four to eight cylinders and in all relevant model ranges. The outcome is high power output paired with low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
BlueDIRECT - making the gasoline engine as economical as the diesel
The highest levels of efficiency is the common characteristic across a generation of six and eight-cylinder engines launched in 2010 in the S-Class, CL-Class and the new CLS. While each of the engines offers increased power and torque in comparison with its predecessor, fuel consumption – in the new CLS, for example - has been lowered by up to 25 percent. When it comes to fuel economy, this means that modern Mercedes-Benz BlueDIRECT direct-injection gasoline engines have moved another step closer to their diesel counterparts. The increased efficiency is due in part to a series of targeted BlueEFFICIENCY measures, especially the ECO stop/start function, which is already standard equipment in many models and will ultimately be made available across its entire product range in over 50 models.
Pioneer in alternative drive technologies
Mercedes-Benz was also quick off the line in the field of alternative drive technologies. As far back as 1906, Mercedes was the first to equip passenger cars, trucks, buses and fire-fighting vehicles with battery-electric or hybrid drives. In the 1970s, the development of electric and hybrid drives was revived and aggressively pursued.
Building on this unique wealth of experience, Mercedes-Benz has introduced a series of modern vehicles with alternative drives that point the way toward the ultimate goal of zero-emissions mobility.
These include the S400 HYBRID luxury sedan, unveiled in 2009, which was the first hybrid passenger car from a European manufacturer and also the first seriesproduction hybrid to feature advanced lithium-ion battery technology. Soon after that, Mercedes-Benz launched three state-of-the-art electric cars in rapid succession - the A-Class E-CELL and the Vito E-CELL delivery van (in Europe), both with battery-electric drive, as well as the fuel-cell powered B-Class F-CELL. The company's lineup of electric cars is rounded off by the smart fortwo electric drive, which is being heralded as the pioneer of a new urban mobility with zero local emissions.
Safety - there's a bit of Mercedes in every modern automobile
Nowhere in the world is there a manufacturer that has invested more in the development of automotive safety than Mercedes-Benz. For 70 years now, safety experts at Mercedes have been systematically working on researching the causes of accidents, mitigating their consequences and accident avoidance. Mercedes' comprehensive commitment was demonstrated by no fewer than three anniversaries in 2009 - "70 years of safety development", "50 years of the passenger safety cell" and "40 years of accident research".
In terms of passive safety, the focus is on ensuring vehicle occupants the best possible protection in the event of an accident. An example of this is the passenger safety cell with crumple zones, which was patented by Mercedes-Benz in 1951 and entered series production for the first time in 1959 in the 220 S and 220 SE "Fintail" models. The airbag is a further example of the innovations first put effectively into series production by Mercedes-Benz – and now taken for granted by all drivers. Therefore, it is fair to say that there's a bit of Mercedes-Benz in every modern automobile.
Mitigating the consequences of accidents and avoiding them entirely
Active safety is central to the goal of accident-free driving. To this end, Mercedes-Benz has developed a number of innovations that can lessen the severity of accidents or prevent them altogether. Electronically controlled ABS and ESP® are Mercedes developments that have demonstrably contributed to a significant reduction in accident frequency. These safety systems, too, are now standard equipment across virtually all manufacturers. The ABS anti-lock braking system was introduced in 1978 in the 116 S-Class, while the airbag was launched in 1981 in the 126 S-Class. Mercedes-Benz then debuted the ESP® electronic stability program in 1995 in the 140 S-Class Coupe, before successively introducing it across its model lineup.
Mercedes-Benz was the first car manufacturer in the world to network active and passive safety features within this system, thereby further enhancing occupant protection. The launch of PRE-SAFE® in 2002 opened another new chapter in the history of automotive safety. Mercedes-Benz consistently bases its safety developments on real-life accident situations and on the findings of its in-house accident research. Innovative systems such as Active Blind Spot Assist or ATTENTION ASSIST address typical causes of accidents such as changing lanes and driver fatigue.
Selected milestones in Mercedes-Benz safety development:
1939 – Inception of passenger car safety development
1959 – World's first safety bodyshell
1969 - Establishment of Mercedes-Benz accident research
1978 – Electronically controlled anti-lock braking system (ABS)
1980 – Pyrotechnic airbag, seat belt tensioner
1989 – Automatically deploying roll-over bar
1995 - Electronic Stability Program (ESP®)
1996 - Brake Assist (BAS)
1998 – DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control
1999 – Active Body Control (ABC), tire pressure monitor
2002 – PRE-SAFE® preventive occupant protection system
2003 – Active cornering light
2005 - DISTRONIC PLUS, Brake Assist PLUS, Night View Assist
2006 - PRE-SAFE® Brake, Intelligent Light System (ILS)
2009 - Speed Limit Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist,
ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection
2010 - Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist;
LED high-performance headlamps
Ride comfort - a traditional Mercedes-Benz strength
Ride comfort is a traditional Mercedes strength. Wide track, long wheelbase and tailor-made chassis systems – it is on this basis that Mercedes-Benz has been ensuring its hallmark long-distance ride comfort for more than a century. As early as 1931, Mercedes-Benz set an important milestone in chassis technology with its 170 model, which was the first high-volume passenger car to feature independent suspension on all four wheels. This design delivered an entirely new driving experience that was far better at filtering road surface irregularities and greatly improved body roll.
Time and time again, Mercedes-Benz has been a trailblazer with groundbreaking engineering such as the single-joint swing axle launched in 1954, and the diagonal swing axle introduced in 1968. Both designs combined improved driving safety with further enhanced ride comfort. Then, in 1961, a new benchmark was set with the first air suspension system in the 300 SE luxury sedan. In late 1982, the multi-link rear suspension in the new compact class was a technical sensation. The independent suspension on each of the rear wheels featured five separate links for optimum movement. The multi-link rear suspension system was subsequently extended to all Mercedes-Benz sedans, coupes, cabriolets and sports cars with rear-wheel drive and set an example for many other manufacturers.
AIRMATIC - air suspension for even greater refinement
1998 saw the S-Class debut a further technical milestone – the traditional spring and damper system with coil springs and pneumatic shock absorbers was superseded by electronically controlled AIRMATIC (Adaptive Intelligent Ride Control) with air suspension and ADS Adaptive Damping System. AIRMATIC also features automatic independent leveling on each wheel, which takes account of road surface, driving style and vehicle load to ensure excellent ride comfort. The most important recent innovations have included ABC Active Body Control, the world's first actively controlled suspension system, which was unveiled by Mercedes-Benz in 1991 in its C112 research vehicle and was introduced in the CL coupe in 1999. The system reduces bodyshell vibrations caused by lift and roll when cornering or by pitching movements when braking. The Dynamic Handling package made its debut in 2008 on the new C-Class and offered a choice of two modes - Sport and Comfort. This shift program delivered variable electronic control of the shock absorbers on each wheel.
PRE-SCAN – "flying carpet" on four wheels
In 2007, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the revolutionary PRE-SCAN chassis in the F700 research vehicle. The system can recognize road conditions in advance, react very sensitively to irregularities and compensate for them even more effectively. The F700 is thus (almost) on the comfort level of the proverbial "flying carpet". The "eyes" of the PRE-SCAN chassis are two laser sensors in the headlights.
The MAGIC BODY CONTROL chassis presented by Mercedes-Benz in fall 2010 is an advanced system that literally looks ahead – a highly sensitive stereo camera mounted on the windscreen above the rear-view mirror "observes" the road in front of the vehicle from two different perspectives. The system can therefore recognize road surface irregularities in even greater detail. High-speed on-board computers process all of the data in real time and control the active ABC chassis, which can adjust the forces at each wheel individually. This compensates for most of the bodyshell movement commonly experienced with today's suspension systems.
Operating comfort - intelligent systems improve driver performance
The principle of making vehicle operation as simple and intuitive as possible dates back to the very earliest days of the brand. In 1902, under the model designation "Mercedes Simplex", new Mercedes models demonstrated the progress made in the field of simplified operation. For Mercedes-Benz, the highest level of comfort means far more than interior ambience and top-quality equipment. All comfort solutions are oriented toward improving driver performance and relieving the load through a wide range of carefully balanced individual initiatives. Operating comfort, ergonomics, air conditioning, low noise levels, handling characteristics and many other factors affect a driver's performance behind the wheel, and thus also his or her ability to maintain an overview of the traffic situation. After all, only a relaxed driver is also a safe driver.
Mercedes-Benz has been researching this complex issue for many years under the heading "driver performance", and has used its findings to improve its seriesproduction vehicles. As a result, Mercedes drivers have been proven to stay fit and focused for longer. Prime examples of the progress achieved in this field are the carefully designed, intuitive control and display concepts, and the intelligent driver assistance systems that turn the automobile into a partner that thinks along with the person behind the wheel.
Design - design language as a bridge between the traditional and the modern
Mercedes-Benz design develops within the zone between traditional awareness and future focus. The aesthetic design of the automobile was heavily influenced by the "Lightning Benz" of 1909. The innovative design language of this recordbreaking racing car was for the first time based on aerodynamic principles, giving it an extremely dynamic look.
While masculine, powerfully sculpted lines characterized the Mercedes-Benz models of the 1920s, the 1930s saw the design language switch gradually to gentler, flowing lines and rounded forms. Highlights of this development were the 1934 500 K and its visually almost identical successor the 540 K, launched in 1936. With their tailored forms and elegant, flowing lines, they were considered objects of perfect beauty.
1953 - dawn of modern car design
In 1953, Mercedes-Benz stepped into the modern age with its 180 model. This sedan was characterized by its three-box design - the third "box", after front end and passenger compartment, being the luggage compartment. The self supporting "pontoon" bodyshell was impressive not only because of its greater stability and improved crash safety, but it also had a far more modern look. Compared with the classic vehicle form featuring prominent fenders, separate headlamps, side running boards and a short rear overhang, the pontoon models also offered a number of practical benefits – more interior space, better visibility, a lower drag coefficient, reduced wind noise and a considerably larger trunk.
Many outstanding Mercedes-Benz models have had a significant influence on automotive design. Often described as a design icon, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "gullwing" embodied pedigree and class like no other car of its time. To this day, it remains a highly sought-after dream car and in 1999 was voted "sports car of the century" by an international jury of automotive experts. The 300 SL was the first Mercedes-Benz road vehicle to sport a horizontal air intake with the star in the center. This new front end was to become the hallmark of all future SL sports tourers.
Launched in 1959, the 220, 220 S and 220 SE "Fintail" models also set new benchmarks with their distinctive form, which united function and elegance. Known officially as "markers", the tail fins were not only beautiful, but also useful when parking, while the excellent visibility anticipated emerging changes in customer expectations.
Proven style elements combined with new ideas
As model-specific expressions of distinctive brand identity, current Mercedes-Benz vehicles often exhibit stylistic details from the brand's past. These include, for instance, the curving lines of the current E-Class family, which are reminiscent of the 1950s pontoon models; or the fins and side air intakes on the SL, which also date back to the 1950s. These classic elements, however, are always reinterpreted with a contemporary look, thus ensuring that Mercedes-Benz steers clear of fashionable, short-lived retro trends. Mercedes-Benz designers seek to emphasize the rich heritage of the company's models by combining proven brand style elements with new ideas, thereby continuously evolving the design.
Mercedes-Benz pursues a long-term design strategy, which guarantees that a Mercedes is always recognizable as a Mercedes. In so doing, Mercedes designers adhere to a sophisticated design language, combining elements that make a vehicle immediately recognizable as a Mercedes-Benz with a distinct design philosophy for each individual model series, to give each vehicle its own unique character. The SUV models are thus clearly differentiated from the sedans, coupes and sports cars. The outcome is an attractive blend of individual look and unmistakable brand identity. The Mercedes-Benz design language remains alive in every detail – modern, but never 'trendy'.
The same principle applies to interior design that is consistently implemented by Mercedes-Benz. Depending on the character of the vehicle, materials, forms and style elements are developed and executed specifically for each model range, with individuality and overall harmony having clear priority over general uniformity. Interior design is gaining increasing importance within overall vehicle design, and today contributes more than ever to the eternal fascination of beauty. A car's interior is seen as a living space in which the owner spends a lot of time.
The Mercedes-Benz design language – reinterpreted
A sneak peak at the future of Mercedes-Benz design language is provided by the F800 Style research vehicle, which is a technology showcase and design statement in one. Its external appearance is characterized by its long wheelbase, short bodyshell overhangs and sensually flowing roof line. The taut coupe-like side view and the balanced proportions deliver a stylish, sporty appearance that takes the Mercedes-Benz design language to the next level.
Room for creative thinking
Creativity has been a focal point for the inventor of the automobile for 125 years. German engineering and inventiveness have created a world-class brand icon. The company promotes creativity by making room for free thinking and working, thereby guaranteeing that the well of innovation will never run dry.
In order to maintain its innovative edge, the company has established a global knowledge network that pulls together the know-how of its research and development people from across diverse disciplines. Last year, the company was able to retain its position as the premium car manufacturer with the most patent applications. More than half the total of 2,070 applications filed relate to "green" technologies, with 720 them in the field of driveline (35 percent). Significant progress has been achieved above all in the fields of energy efficiency and exhaust gas aftertreatment, as well as fuel cell and battery technology. By continuing to invest heavily in research and development, the company is laying the foundations for further expanding its high standard of innovation over the long term.
Mercedes-Benz – the world's most valuable luxury brand
Thanks to its consistent strategy of innovation, Mercedes-Benz holds a leading position in the ranking of the world's most valuable brands. This is backed up by the most recent international studies, which confirm the special position held by Mercedes-Benz in no fewer than three categories - "most valuable German brand", "most valuable global premium car brand" and "most valuable global luxury brand".
"Nothing but the best" – yesterday, today and in future
It was Carl Benz who said: "The love of inventing never dies". And it was Gottlieb Daimler who came up with the famous maxim "The best or nothing". Mercedes-Benz has remained true to these guiding principles for almost 125 years. The spirit of innovation, one of the key driving forces, is firmly rooted in our corporate culture - always with the goal of ensuring personal mobility for future generations, too, and of providing each individual customer with the optimum vehicle for their individual needs. This innovation is founded on Mercedes-Benz's systematic research activities, which led in the early 70s to the official establishment of a separate research department. Today, Mercedes-Benz has at its disposal a global knowledge network of some 19,000 researchers and developers – an interdisciplinary think tank full of pioneering spirit, expertise and motivation to continue building the best cars in the world.