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(established 1926)

Perhaps the most famous name associated with German automobile manufacture, both on account of its historic origins in the pioneering days of automobile design and of its long association with innovation, quality, and style. The origins of the company lay in the 1880s' pioneering work of Carl Benz, who is often credited with the invention of the motor car. The Mercedes name was first introduced for a sports car in 1901 and, in 1926, the Benz and Daimler companies merged. In the following year the famous Mercedes S sports car was introduced, followed by the SS (Super Sport) and SSK (Super Sport Kurz, designed by Ferdinand Porsche) models in 1928, all of which did much to establish the company's standing as a manufacturer of luxury cars, a position enhanced further by the introduction of the 500K, designed by Friedrich Geiger in 1936. The company's global reputation developed with the introduction of the highly successful Silver Arrow racing cars in 1934, winning a number of Grand Prix world championships before the Second World War. In the post‐war years one of the most famous models was the low‐slung 300 SL of 1954 with its upward opening ‘wing’ doors designed by Geiger. From the late 1950s Geiger worked closely with Béla Barény from the company's development department and Italian Bruno Sacco, who had joined Mercedes Benz in 1958. Key models included the 220 S Coupé of 1961 by Karl Wilfert and the 230 SL sports car by Barény of 1963. Sacco became increasingly influential in the 1970s, working on the S‐Class model series launched in 1972. He took over as head of styling from Geiger in 1975, becoming chief designer in 1987 until Peter Pfeiffer succeeded him in 1999. In 1987 the Advanced Design Department had been established as a means of sharpening the company's design policy and identity of model ranges such as the E‐Class that had been launched in 1982. In the 1990s the company sought to capture a new, younger affluent urban market keen to access the Mercedes‐Benz marque with the launch of its distinctive super‐mini A‐Series launched in 1997. Even more radical was the diminutive two‐seater Smart town car, a collaboration between Daimler‐Benz (Mercedes' parent company) and the Swatch watch manufacturers SMH, launched in 1998.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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