A year after mechanical engineer Gottlieb Daimler sold his first luxury gasoline-powered automobile to the sultan of Morocoo in 1899, he formed Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) in his hometown of Cannstatt, Germany.
A prominent Austrian diplomat and businessman Emil Jellinek, was enthusiastic about the car and ordered one from Daimler in 1897 but the 6-horsepower 2-cylinder engine was to slow for him. He soon replaced it with two faster models with 4 cylinder engines.
Jellinek began to sell Daimlers to high society customers and started to drive in racing events. This included Nice Week on the French Riviera, in 1988. He entered the races using the pseudonym “Mercedes,” which was the name of his eldest daughter.
In April of 1900, Jellinek signed an agreement with DMG to sell a new line of 4 cylinder vehicles. He suggested that the car should be called Mercedes—the non-German name might sell better in France.
On December 22, 1900, Jellinek took delivery of the first Mercedes designed by Wilhelm Maybach, the chief engineer at DMG. The 35-horsepower vehicle had a pressed-steel frame, honeycomb radiator, mechanical intake valves and an improved gearbox. It could achieve a maximum speed of 53 mph. The 1901 Mercedes is considered to have been the first modern automobile.
Nice Week was a big success for Mercedes in March 1901 when the cars almost swept the field. Mercedes was registered as a brand name on June 23, 1902 and legally protected on September 26, when Emil Jellinek got permission to take the name of Jelinek-Mercedes and likely “the first time that a father has borne the name of his daughter.”
The famous Mercedes symbol that we see today, a three-point star, was registered as a trademark in 1909 and used on all Mercedes vehicles from 1910 onward.