Emil Jellinek, the accelerator.
The businessman helps the Daimler Motor Company
to attain global fame – and a famous name.
Jellinek, the precursor and name-giver.
When talk turns to the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the rich tradition of its predecessors also deserves a mention, including the legendary 60 horsepower Mercedes Simplex from 1904, for which the successful businessman Emil Jellinek had a body built as a luxurious touring limousine. And when the Mercedes brand is mentioned, talk quickly turns to
the famous name-giver, Jellinek's daughter Mercédès Adrienne Ramona Manuela – in short: Mercedes . From 1901 onwards, the cars of the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft were named after her, and under her name they were bound for world fame and success. It was Emil Jellinek who largely contributed to this.
The best and at the same time
the most difficult customer.
But who was this Emil Jellinek? To put it briefly: in the person of this Austro-Hungarian businessman and diplomat, the Daimler Motor Company (Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft or DMG) founded in 1890, had its best but most difficult customer at the beginning of the 20th century. This merchant demanded increasingly powerful and fast cars from the automobile pioneers and almost pushed the production capacity of the Cannstatt Daimler works to its limit. From 1906 onwards, however, because of his technical and business demands, relations between Jellinek and the DMG became increasingly strained, until finally they fell out altogether.
Up until then, Jellinek had become closely involved in the model policy of the Stuttgart car brand and as general distributor in numerous countries he had helped the corporation to attain global renown and immense success.
Success as a businessman.
Emil Jellinek was born on 6 April 1853 in Leipzig, the son of Adolf Jellinek, a Viennese rabbi. Although he grew up in an intellectual family, he was not keen on academic study. He changed schools several times, found employment with a railway company and finally, with his father's help, switched to the diplomatic service. As a successful and affluent tobacco merchant and insurance agent with offices in Vienna and Nice, Jellinek soon gained access to higher social circles and was proud of his associations with European moneyed nobility and aristocracy. He was an energetic self-made man with an extravagant lifestyle, who rose with remarkable rapidity and was interested in the progress of the automobile from its early days. Shortly after it was invented by Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz in 1886, Jellinek became a keen admirer of this new form of transport. After first attempts with a De Dion three-wheeler, he bought a four-wheel Benz Viktoria, which came on to the market in 1893.
1897: the first visit to Cannstatt.
However, Jellinek was not satisfied with the vehicles of the time. In his opinion, they did not reach their full potential. He spoke about the Benz as a "monster", comparing it with a crawling spider – a foretaste of the stubbornness with which he demanded more and new top performance from the designers in Cannstatt. He made his first journey there in 1897, after a newspaper advertisement had drawn his attention to the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, to order his first Daimler. When the car, a six horsepower "belt-driven car" with a two-cylinder engine, was delivered in October 1897, Jellinek was deeply disappointed: he found the car with its top speed of 24 km/h far too slow. Jellinek demanded 40 km/h (an unheard-of speed at the time!) and ordered two more cars.
The two "Phoenix" cars which were delivered in September 1898 with an eight horsepower front engine, were the first Daimler automobiles with four-cylinder engines. It was the beginning of a volatile business relationship.
Jellinek makes the horseless carriage famous.
Jellinek promoted the cars from Cannstatt in the highest circles; and in Nice, where he spent most of his time, the horseless carriages were given a warm welcome. Jellinek worked as an independent dealer and marketing strategist and succeeded in doing a roaring trade – and he repeatedly demanded technical innovations from Daimler and the
chief designer Wilhelm Maybach. He managed to persuade them that the future of the automobile lay in speed and elegance: "If I cannot get more from an automobile than from a horse-drawn carriage, I can just as easily go back to using horses," was his confirmed opinion.
As "Monsieur Mercedes"
at the starting line in Nice.
With his love of motor racing, Emil Jellinek demanded faster and more powerful vehicles from DMG and ordered more Daimler "Phoenix" cars: with them he wanted to take part in the car race in Nice in 1899. Jellinek registered the car under his pseudonym – a common practice at the time – and used the name of his daughter from his first marriage, who was born in 1889: Mercedes. Through Jellinek's activities and the cars successes, the name Mercedes soon had a pleasant sound in motorists' circles, and Jellinek did not allow setbacks, such as the fatal accident suffered by the Daimler works driver Wilhelm Bauer at the Speed Week in March 1900, to slow him down:
"It would be commercial suicide to stay away from the races," he advised.
the brand name.
In Cannstatt, they gave in to Jellinek's pressure and on his initiative from 2 April 1900 began developing a new engine, which was powerful and also particularly light-weight. On Jellinek's recommendation this was named "Daimler-Mercedes" – "Mercedes" appeared here for the first time as a product and brand name in its own right. Wilhelm Maybach, head designer of DMG, for the first time designed an equally innovative automobile for the new engine. Jellinek promised to purchase a fixed quota of cars at ex-works price and to share the sales profits with the manufacturer. Jellinek ordered 36 cars for a total price of 550,000 marks – a huge order. Jellinek was then elected on to the DMG board of directors on the side, so to speak, and given widespread sales rights in all the important markets. Soon all the world was talking about "Mercedes cars" and Jellinek the artful self-made man made sure of that too.
The first modern
automobile in the world.
At Speed Week in Nice at the end of March 1901, the Mercedes cars created a furore: the new Mercedes 35 hp newly designed by the brilliant technician Maybach was the first modern automobile in the world with numerous technical innovations. The automobile was for the first time given an individual shape which no longer had anything in common with a carriage design: it was, however, more successful; winning numerous first and second-place prizes, the cars from Cannstatt were in a class of their own – both on the distance tour from Nice-Aix-Salon-Nice, the Nice-La Turbie hill race and at the mile race in Nice. Paul Meyan, general secretary of the Automobile Club of France coined the memorable sentence: "We have entered the Mercedes era."
The successes at the races meant huge demand and in turn production was sold out until 1904. On 23 June 1902 the name "Mercedes" was finally registered as a trade mark and from 26 September 1902 was legally patented.
Emil Jellinek, who from 1903 onwards had been given official permission to name himself Jellinek-Mercedes, was at the peak of his success: "We had won right across the board: the Mercedes car had been launched. Mercedes was trumps," he later recalled. At the same time he continued to needle
the gentlemen in Cannstatt with suggestions for improvement – the corporation should not rest on its laurels. This visionary, who habitually noted his ideas spontaneously on his white shirt-cuffs, criticised the noisy cogwheel drive and with his increasingly brusque tone enraged the company management.
Separation after 1906.
Tired of the constant new demands and ideas, from 1906 the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, spurred by sinking sales figures due to the economic crisis, severed the business connection with Jellinek and reorganised the sales system. Jellinek sought new challenges in automobile manufacture and initiated the foundation of two new companies, which aimed to point the Austrian DMG in a new direction. The factory in the new part of Vienna, which had been a subsidiary of DMG in Stuttgart since 1902, was to produce electric vehicles with wheel hub motors based on the Lohner-Porsche system. Jellinek hired Ferdinand Porsche as chief designer. The cars with this innovative drive were not received on the market with the hoped-for enthusiasm and production numbers remained low. The petrol engine had by then become so reliable and practical that electric cars soon lost attractiveness and importance.
No success with the "Maja car".
At the beginning of 1907, Jellinek backed the medium-sized petrol automobile as an additional pillar, naming it the "Maja" car after his daughter "Maja" Andrée. This car, which Porsche had designed, only received a weak response and could not maintain itself on the market. Jellinek left the Austrian DMG and in his disappointment abandoned car design. His diplomatic career, which he had resumed in 1907, was rudely curtailed by the First World War: the French suspected Jellinek of espionage; his second wife Madeleine, whom he had married in 1899 after the death of Mercedes' mother, was suspect as a Frenchwoman in Austria. Jellinek did not live to see end of the war: he died on 21 January 1918 in Geneva, aged 64.
Although not all his projects were as successful as the first Mercedes cars, the Mercedes-Benz brand and the motor car industry have a lot to thank Emil Jellinek for. The touring car in the Stuttgart museum and the brand name have made his life's work immortal.