Emil Jellinek, an entrepreneur who commissioned engineer Wilhelm Maybach to design the first Mercedes automobile, named after Jellinek’s daughter, is born in Leipzig, Germany, on this day in 1853.
Jellinek was a successful businessman in 1897, when he bought a car from Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, an engine and auto company founded in 1890 by Gottlieb Daimler (1834-1900). In 1898, Jellinek purchased two Daimler Phoenix cars, which were the world’s first road vehicles with four-cylinder engines. Jellinek then began selling Daimler cars to his wealthy friends and associates. He also raced cars and pushed Daimler to make faster, more powerful vehicles. In 1900, Jellinek worked with Daimler on a new racing car that he named Mercedes, after his 11-year-old daughter.
The first Mercedes was delivered to Jellinek in December 1900. Designed by Daimler’s chief engineer, Wilhelm Maybach (1846-1929), the car featured a 35 hp engine and a long, low body and was considered the first “modern” car. Jellinek began racing his Mercedes vehicles in Nice, France, in 1901. He beat the competition and helped establish Mercedes’ reputation for performance. The Mercedes name was trademarked in September 1902. In 1903, Jellinek changed his own name to Emil Jellinek-Mercedes. He retired from the auto business five years later and died on January 21, 1918 at the age of 64.
In 1926, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft merged with Benz & Cie., which was founded in by German auto engineer Karl Benz (1844-1929). The company produced vehicles under the Mercedes-Benz name. In 1998, Daimler-Benz bought the U.S. auto giant Chrysler and became known as DaimlerChrysler. In 2007, Daimler sold an 80 percent stake in Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus for $7.4 billion.