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Aug 25, 2005
Almost 120 years have passed since – independently of one another – Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile. It was an amazing technological beast that conquered the world like no other before or since and sparked in America a fascination as old as the invention itself. And no wonder. For the car touched just about every basic human interest – and first among them, that of individual mobility. For individual mobility was the key to personal freedom, since the earliest days of the United States an issue of fundamental importance to Americans. Add to that the distances between the country’s major cities and one soon begins to understand why the car has always occupied a very special place in the affections of Americans.
This fact was also reflected in the activities of the Mercedes-Benz brand. It had a presence in many different areas of American life and continued to do so for decades. First and foremost, of course, there were the products themselves. From the very earliest days of motoring, vehicles were imported from Germany – even today this remains the fundamental pillar of all business activities. Yet local production was initiated as early as 1905, when the Daimler Manufacturing Com-pany in New York began manufacturing exact replicas of the 45 hp Mercedes as produced in Cannstatt – the so called “American Mercedes”. Although production ceased a few years later, the “ American Mercedes” was of huge importance to the company’s brand presence in the United States.
Later cornerstones for Mercedes-Benz success in the United States were not laid until after the Second World War, when the whole adventure really took off with the serial production of a very special car in 1954: the 300 SL coupe. The “ Gullwing” was built at the insistence of American Mercedes-Benz importer Maximilian Hoffman, and almost the entire series of 1,400 units was exported to America. From that moment on, one thing led to another. The brand put down further roots and in 1965 the import company Mercedes-Benz of North America was established, the first company-owned sales organization outside Germany. Then followed many fruitful years of vehicle imports, with at regular intervals models built especially for the United States market – the 300 CD coupe, the 300 SD S-Class or the 560 SL roadster to name but three.
In order to pick up on influential trends coming out of America and to incorporate these into vehicle design, in 1990 the company set up the studio Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design of North America. Although all design studios worldwide worked in collaboration, the M-Class can be considered tangible proof of the work carried out at this location. The model was launched in 1997 and to a considerable extent embodied the requirements of American car buyers. Moreover, it was produced at a new plant built at Tuscaloosa/AL.
Wherever a brand enjoys such a lengthy market presence, a well-established classic car scene inevitably follows. This was no different in the case of Mercedes-Benz, a brand which had won a large and admiring public in the USA. So it is only logical to want to provide expert local support for classic fans in their own country, and a Mercedes-Benz Classic Center about to open. Forming a bridge between present and past, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA will offer a specialized service for customers of classic Mercedes-Benz vehicles including a range of parts and literature, as well as the expert maintenance and restoration of prized Mercedes-Benz vehicles.