Mercedes-Benz SA continues its legendary tradition of invention at Johannesburg Motor Show

  • 125! years of the automobile – a threefold reinvention

Pretoria. Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) will have an exciting and dominant presence at the Johannesburg International Motor Show in October, as it showcases exhilarating high-performance passenger cars and state-of the-art trucks, vans and buses.

As the inventor of the automobile 125 years ago, the company will demonstrate its commitment to innovation.

125 years of sustainable business activities
On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz changed the world when he applied for a patent on his “vehicle powered by a gas engine” under the number 37435.  The company that is known today as Daimler AG can trace its roots back to this patent, which marked the birth of the automobile.

With their inventions, the founding fathers of our company set into motion a dynamic development that has continued to this very day.  They paved the way for the automobile society, which has in turn generated numerous new opportunities – but has also created challenges.  Daimler AG came up with responses to these challenges by initiating pioneering paradigm shifts and developing groundbreaking innovations that have reinvented the automobile time and again.

The challenge of traffic safety:  the first reinvention of the automobile
The expansion of industrial-scale motor vehicle production at the beginning of the 20th Century increased traffic density and the risk of injury posted by ever-faster cars.  Daimler responded to this challenge with pioneering innovations that created new dimensions of vehicle safety.  These developments ranged from the concept of a defined crumple zone (as early as 1952) to the integration of intelligent active and passive safety systems.

The challenge of environmental protection:  the second reinvention of the automobile
At the very latest, the key challenges associated with environmental protection had been recognised by the time the United Nations conference on Environment and Development took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.  For Daimler, the focus had to be on aspects such as the avoidance of emissions, energy efficiency, and the use of environmentally friendly drive systems and fuels.

The automotive giant has performed a lot of ground-breaking work in this area – from the production of the first diesel-powered passenger car (as early as 1936) to the development of a broad range of innovative drive system concepts that are paving the way toward the long-term goal of zero-emission driving.

The challenge of a networked mobile way of life:  the third reinvention of the automobile
Owning a vehicle became the symbol for individualised quality of life in the 20th century.  Today’s challenge is to redefine a mobile way of life in a society marked by many different lifestyles that are also constantly changing.  Daimler is also playing a pioneering role in the transition to flexible and networked mobility by offering a unique mix of vehicles that enable individuals to use appropriate vehicles as needed, without having to own their own cars.

This year Daimler and its local subsidiary, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA), are celebrating this 125th anniversary.  Amongst these will be MBSA’s strong pioneering theme at the Johannesburg International Motor Show.

As an expression of thanks to our approximately 270 000 employees worldwide, Daimler has been organising festivities for its workers and their families at nearly all Daimler locations around the world.   MBSA employees will also be given the opportunity to share in the pride of the company by visiting the Johannesburg Motor Show.

The first vehicle in South Africa – a Benz Velo
The first vehicle ever on South African soil was a Benz Velo imported by John Percy Hess, a broker’ and forwarding and general agent dealing in coal and cement.  His partner in the enterprise was a founder of the Pretoria News newspaper, a Mr A.E. Reno.

They imported the vehicle from the Benz & Cie. company in Mannheim, Germany, and it was off-loaded in Port Elizabeth from where it was brought to Pretoria by rail. The first demonstration of the vehicle in South Africa was at the Berea Park in Pretoria on 4 January 1897. This original vehicle was later sold to Albert Jacob, a coffee merchant in Johannesburg and later unfortunately lost in a warehouse fire.

A genuine Benz Velo model also built in the same year as the South African model has been brought to South Africa from the Mercedes-Benz Classic museum in Stuttgart and will be on display at the Johannesburg Motor Show.