Where did the name Mercedes come from?

Where did the name Mercedes originate from?  Mercedes actually is of Spanish origin, referring to a title for the Virgin Mary, Maria de las Mercedes.


Resource:  Media: Daimler.com


Namesake: Mercedes Jellinek aged 15. Emil Jellinek initially chose the first name of his daughter as a pseudonym for his own involvement in racing with vehicles from Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft; it later became the brand name.;

This young girl’s name is Mércédès Jellinek, pictured at the age of 15.    Her first name has become synonymous with the best engineered cars in the world, Mercedes Benz.

You might be asking yourself how did a little girl’s name became one of the most famous marques in the world?  Her father,  an  Austrian businessman and an avid racing enthusiast was very much involved with racing vehicles for Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft.

He initially chose the first name of his daughter as a pseudonym in competitions.   It was quite common  in those days for racing  men to use “aliases” so as to keep their true identity secret from the competition and the like.  Thus Emil Jellinek raced as Monsieur Mercedes.

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Emil with his daughter Mercedes.

Pionier des Automobilvertriebs: Der Kaufmann Emil Jellinek (1853 bis 1918) verkaufte sehr erfolgreich Mercedes-Fahrzeuge der DMG. ; Pioneer car salesman: businessman Emil Jellinek (1853-1918) sold DMG’s Mercedes cars very successfully.;European entrepreneur,  Emil Jellinek (1853-1918).   A legendary salesman who utilized his diplomatic ties with the elite to sell  DMG’s Mercedes cars .

The Pioneering Perfectionist:  Emil  Jellinek

Emil Jellinek was a young man who enjoyed a fashionable lifestyle when the automobile was invented in 1886. He was fascinated with the new product and owned one ever since they appeared: after first trying out a De Dion three-wheeler he bought a four-wheeled Benz Viktoria when the model became available in 1893. But he was not really satisfied yet with the new vehicles. In his view they could be better and had not developed their full potential. He referred to the Benz, for example, as a “monster”, comparing it with a crawling spider.

Eventually, in 1896 a newspaper advertisement of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) caught Jellinek’s attention. He travelled to Cannstatt and ordered two belt-driven cars, “a four-horsepower and a nine-horsepower” which were said to do 40 km/h on a “smooth road” an unheard-of speed in the outgoing nineteenth century.

In Nice, where Emil Jellinek spent most of the year, and which was then a meeting place for the upper crust of France and Europe mainly in the winter,  horseless carriages caught on very well. Starting in 1897 Jellinek promoted the Daimler automobiles in the highest social circles, working as an independent dealer.
The Rothschild family and other well-known personalities bought cars from him. By the time Gottlieb Daimler passed away in 1900, Jellinek had managed to sell 34 cars this way. This gave him weight in his dealings with DMG, and he repeatedly demanded technical innovations of Daimler and engineer Wilhelm Maybach. He combined an ability to judge vehicles with an antenna for the market, and, viewed on the whole, definitely can be described as a marketing strategist.


Jellinek finally convinced Daimler and Maybach that the future of the automobile lay in speed and elegance. “When I came on the scene the Daimler cars were solid, usable and reliable in service, but only cars in theory” he is quoted as saying

Jellinek did not see speed as just a fun temptation but rather he considered it to be the true purpose of a motor vehicle: “If I can’t get any more out of an automobile than out of a horse and carriage, then I might as well travel by horse again!”

Moreover, he suggested that the inventor of the automobile compete in races and reliability runs under his own name and with his own cars, because “racing will make a name for a factory and a brand.”

The first Semmering race, 27 August 1899. The category winner Emil Jellinek is seen here at the wheel of his 16 hp Phoenix racing car, next to him is Hermann Braun. From left to right, on the back seat: Ferdinand Spiegel, Otto Zels and Ferdinand Jellinek. (The first Phoenix models were extremely tall vehicles with a rounded bonnet and round-shaped radiators. They had an output of up to 24 hp).;

Pictured above:  “Pre-Mercedes era” – The first Semmering race, 27 August 1899. The category winner Emil Jellinek is seen here at the wheel of his 16 hp Phoenix racing car, next to him is Hermann Braun. 

Jellinek took a hand in racing himself. For a racing event in Nice in 1899 he had two Daimler Phoenix cars built for himself. They had an output of 21 kW  a great deal for that period. The vehicles could pass for sports cars or racing cars. To support him, DMG sent him Wilhelm Bauer, a foreman who was most familiar with the Phoenix model.

 

However, the cars from the Daimler company were not good enough to win either the speed trials or the hillclimb. This spurred Jellinek on: he strongly interfered in the company’s model policy, demanding more powerful, faster vehicles from DMG. In addition, he wanted a new chassis: wider, longer, lower-slung, lighter in short: safer than before, even at higher speeds. “I am not interested in today’s car or tomorrow’s.“

I want the car of the day after tomorrow!” This was Emil Jellinek’s maxim. “My workshop is the road. Only the road is the criterion for me.”

During the Nice racing week at the end of March 1900, disaster struck. In the Nice La Turbie mountain race Daimler factory driver Wilhelm Bauer suffered a fatal accident with the car entered in the race as “Mercedes I”.

Co-driver Hermann Braun, who already overturned in the Nice Marseille race with “Mercedes II”, the second Daimler entered at the race week, again remain unscathed.

Cannstatt’s first reaction was to make excessive engine outputs responsible for the accident and to stay away from any speed events in future. However, Emil Jellinek convinced Wilhelm Maybach in early March that the car’s high centre of gravity was responsible for the accident: “Victories bring world fame. People buy the winning brand, and will always buy it. It would be commercial suicide to abstain from racing,” Jellinek argued. “What we need is a new vehicle of completely different design.”

On April 2,  1900 Jellinek ordered the development of a new kind of car with Daimler.  The car was to have an output of at least 26 kW.  He ordered it to be a lightweight engine with a lower centre of gravity and very fast.

 

A deal needed to be done in order to produce the new vehicles, but DMG was confronted with the problem of sales financing for this better engineered car.  The company needed further capital: even assuming it would be a success, whether or not the cars actually would be sold still posed a relatively high risk.

Jellinek answered this by coming to an agreement with DMG.  He promised a rather large sum of 550,000 Goldmark if Wilhelm Maybach would design the revolutionary sports car for him, and call it Mercedes.   (In today’s numbers, 550,000 Goldmark’s would  be the equivalent of 2.3 million euros.)

With financing in place, it was agreed that 36 units were to be delivered before October 15, 1900.    In exchange Emil proposed that he would sell the cars and share in the profits with DMG.  The deal also included an order for 36 standard DMG 8 hp cars. Jellinek also became a member of DMG’s Board of Management.

The First Official Mercedes

Der erste "Mercedes", der 35-PS Rennwagen von 1901. ; The 35 hp Mercedes racing car of 1901, the first "Mercedes".;
Der erste “Mercedes”, der 35-PS Rennwagen von 1901. ;
The 35 hp Mercedes racing car of 1901, the first “Mercedes”.;

 

The agreement also assured him far-reaching sales rights for more powerful cars from DMG in all major markets. From April 1900 Emil Jellinek was thus general distributor for Austria-Hungary, France, Belgium and the USA “practically for the whole world,” as one chronicler writes. Jellinek himself was a citizen of Austria-Hungary. In the countries where he was sole distributor, the cars were sold under name “Mercedes”, while in all other countries they initially sold as “new Daimler”. But soon people in all countries only talked about “Mercedes cars”.

“We have entered the Mercedes era!”

The first new 35 hp car was delivered to Jellinek on 22 December 1900. This new “Mercedes” developed by Wilhelm Maybach caused a sensation at the start of the century: it was the world’s first modern car. One of its numerous technical innovations was the honeycomb radiator, which needed far less water than before to cool the engine.

Jellinek at any rate was very good at promoting the new type of automobile. As early as 4 January 1901, just a few days after the arrival of the first Mercedes in Nice, the L’Automobile-Revue du Littoral published an article which stated:

There is nothing new to see in Paris right now but in Nice. The first Mercedes car built in the workshops of Cannstatt has arrived in Nice, and thanks to the cooperativeness of its owner, Mr. Jellinek, all car drivers were able to have a close look at it. We make no secret of our opinion: the Mercedes car is very, very interesting. This remarkable vehicle will be a fearsome competitor in the races of 1901.”

At the Nice racing week in late March 1901 the cars with the name Mercedes demonstrated to a large audience just what they were capable of: with four first-place and five second-place finishes the Daimler cars were in a class of their own  both in the long-distance run, the hillclimb and the mile race. The French manufacturer Panhard & Levassor, who had captured first place in all races of the previous year, withdrew its vehicles before the start.

“We were victorious all down the line: the Mercedes car has been launched. Mercedes was the car of the day,” Emil Jellinek said for the record. Paul Meyan, general secretary of the French Automobile Club, coined the phrase: “We have entered the Mercedes era!”

For until then, although the Germans Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler were regarded as the inventors of the automobile, the French were considered the better carmakers. The cream of society was enthusiastic about the new vehicle.

In 1901 the American billionaires Rockefeller, Astor, Morgan and Taylor were among the buyers of the powerful Mercedes cars of DMG. Wilhelm Maybach, of whom Jellinek was convinced that he could “invent on command”, and who was celebrated by the French as the king of constructors, developed the new method of building automobiles further. But Maybach shared the kudos with Jellinek: “You and I are the inventors of the Mercedes car,” he wrote later on in a letter.

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