March 17

This Day in History

Automotive

Mar 17, 1834:

Auto pioneer Gottlieb Daimler born

Gottlieb Daimler, who in 1890 founded an engine and car company bearing his name, is born in Schorndorf, Germany, on this day in 1834.

As a teenager, Daimler apprenticed to become a gunsmith and later moved into mechanical engineering. In 1885, he met Wilhelm Maybach (1846-1929) and the two developed a new, efficient version of the four-stroke engine internal-combustion engine. (Nikolaus Otto is credited with inventing the first functioning four-stroke engine.) Daimler and Maybach attached their engine to a wooden bicycle, creating what has been referred to as the world's first motorcycle. In 1886, they fit their engine to a carriage, creating a four-wheel, motorized vehicle. In 1890, Daimler founded the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft company, with Maybach serving as technical director. The company built automobiles and engines for a variety of vehicles.

Gottlieb Daimler died at the age of 65 on March 6, 1900. Later that year, the first Mercedes automobile, designed by Wilhelm Maybach, was delivered to entrepreneur and car dealer Emil Jellinek. The vehicle was named for Jellinek's daughter Mercedes.

In 1926, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft merged with Benz & Cie., a company founded by German Karl Benz (1844-1929), who like Daimler was an engine designer and auto industry pioneer. The new company made vehicles under the Mercedes-Benz name, which became synonymous with luxury and performance.

In 1998, Daimler-Benz acquired U.S. automaker Chrysler for $36 billion, to create DaimlerChrysler AG. Chrysler was founded in 1925 by Walter Chrysler and became one of America's Big Three automakers. In 2007, Daimler sold an 80 percent controlling interest in Chrysler to private-equity firm Cerberus for $7.4 billion. In April 2009, Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection and announced it would enter a partnership with Italian automaker Fiat.

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