Nothing says you’ve done it like driving a Mercedes Benz. But why? What is it about this type of car that exudes luxury and status?
For older drivers, there’s no denying that Mercedes has a sense of history that adds to the brand’s mystique even today.
Gottlieb Daimler started in 1886, when he built a true “horseless carriage”. He was considered the father of the internal combustion engine. When he died in 1890, he left control of his company to William Maybach, his chief engineer. He also made a deal with Mr. Steinway (the piano boy) to market Daimler vehicles in the United States.
Carl Benz also started in 1886. He built a motorized tricycle that year, and followed it up with the first four-wheel motorized vehicle in 1893 (his Victoria model), and his first production model appeared in 1894 (the Benz Velo). A year later, he too was building trucks.
History tells us that the two inventors never met, but would eventually become a single company producing one of the world’s foremost symbols of automotive luxury. It all started with a girl.
The year Daimler died, his company built a custom vehicle for stock car racer Emil Jellinek, who named it after his daughter, Mercedes.
After World War I, the German economy suffered and the Benz company was looking for a partner to maintain its operations. A Benz board member first approached the Daimler company in 1919, and after a few false starts, the two companies merged in 1926. They chose their now-famous three-pointed star surrounded by a laurel as their symbol of their product and adopted the Mercedes-Benz name. .
In the 1920s, a Benz cost almost 25 million German marks. Combine that high price tag with the extravagant lifestyle of men like Jellinek who sing the praises of the automobile, and you end up with a brand known as the pinnacle of luxury. Not to mention, the cars are still expensive and often include innovative features that haven’t appeared on other manufacturers’ vehicles for years, like fuel injection and anti-lock brakes.
Then again, maybe it’s the vaunted German engineering, at least to car enthusiasts.
Mercedes started out in Germany and became a huge fixture in the auto racing world (maybe Jellinek helped them get started). Racing cars of the early days were often custom affairs and showcased the engineering skills of the companies that made them. Beginning with the Simplex design in the early 20th century, Mercedes became the dominant force in racing.
For a car enthusiast, nothing says you’ve got the “in” machine like claiming the engineering skills that won Le Mans for years are under your hood.
So whether it’s the colorful history, the price, or the engineering that goes into creating a car that many consider a work of art, nothing says style, luxury, and craftsmanship quite like a Mercedes-Benz. Maybe that’s why Janis Joplin asked God to buy her one.