Gottlieb Daimler: A Pioneer in Global Mobility

Daimler AG forges its path on into the future, leveraging the company’s idealist heritage

Words Chris Danielson
May 16, 2020
Daimler AG forges its path on into the future, leveraging the company’s idealist heritage
Words Chris Danielson May 16, 2020

His very last era was once again nothing shy of success as Gottlieb Daimler invented the high-speed petrol engine in 1883/1884. In 1885, he utilised the new powertrain in the “Reitwagen” (riding car) – the world’s first motorised two-wheeler. And in 1886, he turned a horse-drawn carriage into the first four-wheeled automobile with his engine. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) was founded in Cannstatt in 1890, and in the space of just ten years, it became the world’s leading manufacturer of luxury cars. In April 1900, the products were given the legendary name “Mercedes” – Gottlieb Daimler, sadly, was not around to witness this as he died of a heart condition on 6 March 1900. His last twenty years were well spent, however, during which time he achieved many great things together with engineer Wilhelm Maybach. One very significant innovation was the high-speed petrol engine in 1886, which ultimately made the Daimler name synonymous with inventing the automobile. Carl Benz, meanwhile, was also busy at this time presenting his patent motor car.

Gottlieb Daimler

Gottlieb Daimler

From top manager to start-up founder

Gottlieb Daimler was 48 years old when he set up his experimental workshop in the greenhouse of his villa in Cannstatt, and started working on the high-speed, four-stroke engine in the summer of 1882. At this time, he had already made a name for himself as he could look back on a successful career as an engineer and manager. His most recent position was as technical director and board member of Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz AG. The son of a baker, Gottlieb was born on 17 March 1834 in Schorndorf, Germany and later enjoyed an excellent technical education, including earning a degree in mechanical engineering, which he used as a solid starting point to build his career. The inventor was also very cosmopolitan as he sought to gain valuable practical experience in France and Great Britain at a young age. During his time working for Deutz, he also visited Russia, attended the World Exhibitions in Paris and Chicago in 1889 and 1893, respectively, and corresponded with his French business partner Louise Sarazin in her native language.

After leaving Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz in late 1881, the then top manager could have easily taken another well-paid management position elsewhere. Instead, he took a bold risk to become an entrepreneur himself and founded what would now be called a “disruptive” start-up: his goal was nothing less than to revolutionise mobility on land, water and in the air. To this end, a powerful and lightweight yet reliable engine was the key. Carl Benz was also pursuing a visionary approach but, unlike Daimler, did not focus on developing a universal engine as he instead had his eyes set on achieving widespread mobility with the automobile. The general public was initially sceptical to these ideas and often rejected them.

Today, we know that, against all odds, both inventors turned their dreams into a reality. Carl Benz witnessed the merger of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft with Benz & Cie. in 1926, which gave rise to Daimler-Benz AG – a company that later became a global player, whose exceptional products were based on the fundamental ideas put forth by both inventors. Benz was also around to see the triumph of the internal combustion engine as it made global mobility a reality with vehicles, ships and planes criss-crossing the planet. Carl Benz died on 4 April 1929.

Daimler AG, meanwhile, continues down the path of its founding fathers by shaping the future of mobility, leveraging the company’s idealist heritage. To this end, Daimler AG actively pursues the CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric) strategy with its centrally linked topics. The challenges currently being faced are reminiscent of the goals Daimler and Benz successfully achieved back in 1886, when they ushered in a new form of mobility. “We are in the midst of tackling far-reaching changes as the automotive industry undergoes a massive transformation,” affirmed Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management. With the Mercedes-Benz VISION EQS, the brand shows a car concept to provide a glimpse of what sustainable luxury can look like in the future.