120 years ago, this month, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft decided to call its automobiles Mercédès, after the 11-year old daughter of Emil Jellinek.
Businessman and motorcar enthusiast Emil Jellinek was well aware of the importance of a brand name that was easy to remember. At the beginning of April 1900, he concluded an agreement with Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) in Nice on the distribution of Daimler cars and engines.
The decision to develop a new engine, which was to bear the name Daimler-Mercedes, was a further ground-breaking step: it meant that the name that Jellinek had been using as a pseudonym for several years became the product name. On 22 December 1900, DMG delivered the first car equipped with the new engine to Nice, a 35 PS racing car.
The vehicle was not only the newest and most powerful model produced by DMG – it has since come to be recognised as the very first modern motorcar. The Mercedes 35 PS was systematically designed for performance, weight savings and safety, its key features including a lightweight high-performance engine, a long wheelbase and a low centre of gravity. With these attributes and the honeycomb radiator organically integrated into the front, it gave the motorcar its own distinct form: the first Mercedes was no longer reminiscent of a carriage pulled along by a combustion engine instead of horses.
Rather, it was a new construction which had been systematically designed from scratch for the innovative new type of drive. Experts were immediately aware that this vehicle marked a profound change in the field of automotive engineering. Paul Meyan, the founding member and secretary-general of the motorcar Club de France (A.C.F.), is on record as having commented: “We have entered the Mercédès era.”
The birth of a brand
The brand name we've come to admire so much goes back to Jellinek's daughter, Mercédès, who grew up in a family that was obsessed with motorcar technology: Jellinek, who lived in Baden near Vienna and in Nice, competed in car races on the Côte d’Azur in high-performance Daimler cars under the pseudonym “Monsieur Mercedes”, the first name of his daughter, who was born in 1889.
Following the ground-breaking motorsport and market successes of Mercedes cars, the name “Mercédès” was applied for as a trademark on 23 June, 1902 and legally registered on 26 September. Emil Jellinek took this a step further one year later, and in June 1903 he received permission to change his name to Jellinek-Mercedes from then on. He commented on the decision: “This must in all probability be the first time that a father has borne the name of his daughter.”
To this day, Mercedes-Benz is the only automotive brand that bears a female name. "Women like Mercédès Jellinek or Bertha Benz shaped the success story of Mercedes-Benz from the start," says Bettina Fetzer, head of Marketing Mercedes-Benz AG.