There are only a few automobile nameplates that could be considered cultural mainstays whose impact goes beyond the brand itself.
One of those is the brand that wears the three-pointed star: Mercedes-Benz.
Thanks to its impact , Mercedes is, in many consumers’ minds, the yardstick against which every luxury car maker measures its worth and success.
The Mercedes was, as a certain president recently found out to his embarrassment, the very first automobile made in the world, in January, 1886. Soon after Karl Benz unveiled it, a four wheeled vehicle was put together by Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler. Shortly thereafter, the first Mercedes car was built, in 1901, and eventually, the car was named Mercedes after the daughter of Emil Jellinek.
Mr. Jellinek, a wealthy banker-sportsman, had noticed how successful the Daimler powerplant was in racing, and he decided to purchase controlling stock interest in Daimler in the early 1890's and put nearly unlimited funds at the disposal of Gottlieb and Daimler's two sons, Paul and Adolph. It was Jellinek who encouraged Daimler in his idea to create what was to be the most powerful car of its day, a 35 h.p. Monster.
In 1926 the Benz and Daimler companies merged to form Mercedes-Benz, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Throughout its history, Mercedes, based in Stuttgart, Germany, has often been in the forefront of automotive technology and ground breaking inventions.
The brand invented the honeycomb radiator, a variation of which is still in used in water-cooled vehicles. It invented the float carburetor, a fixture on all vehicles until fuel injection was invented, and four wheel brakes on passenger cars also was a Mercedes invention--in 1924.
The so called ”safety cell” or “safety cage construction which includes the use of front and rear crumple zones was invented by Mercedes in 1951, and in 1959, traction control was added to the list of Mercedes firsts That was followed years later--in 1978 through 1980, anti lock brakes and airbags were added to the company’s firsts. More safety innovations followed including pre-tensioners for seat belts, used first in 1981 on the S Class.
Seven speed automatic transmissions were a first invented by Mercedes too, in September 2003, and stability control, and brake assist were then added to the list of safety firsts for the company.
More recently, Mercedes pioneered Pre-Safe, a system that detects an imminent collision, and prepares the car and its occupants by tightening the seat belt, closing the sunroof and windows and moving seats into a position that provides the best safety situation for all concerned.
In terms of its lineup, Mercedes’ current portfolio lineup for 2009 includes:
The A class hatchback, B class sports tourer and hatchback, C-class model range, CLK coupe and convertible, the gorgeous CLS four door coupe, CLC Class luxury compact car, E Class Sedan , hardtop and Wagon, GL:K compact sport utility vehicle, GL large SUV, S-Class sedan, SL roadster, SLK roadster, and the SLR-McLaren coupe and roadster.
Not all of these models are available in the U.S.
When it comes to illustrious automobiles, there are too many too mention for Mercedes.
But they include the SSK racing car of 1928, the stately “Grosser Mercedes” of 1930, the 1936 260 D which was the first diesel production car ever made, the W193 of 1938, which broke speed records, the 1953 “Ponton” models which spearheaded the legendary E Class series of sedans, the 1954 300 SL Gullwing coupe, certainly one of the most important landmarks, in sports car history and often considered the world‘s first production “supercar, and the first S Class luxury sedan, introduced in 1965.
Other Mercedes models of note include the 450 SEL 6.9 sedan, the 1969 C111 experimental car, the first C Class introduced in 1993, the first E Class unveiled in 1986 and the Bluetec range of automobiles introduced in 2007.