Commercial vehicles from the inventor of the truck, every modern Mercedes-Benz truck incorporates experience gained from more than 100 years of commercial vehicle engineering. Gottlieb Daimler built the world’s first truck in 1896, a vehicle reminiscent of a motorised cart in the early days of the automobile. Daimler supplied this truck to London, transport had long since become an international business by the end of the nineteenth century. As in the car business, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz were tough competitors in truck sales for decades. While Daimler produced his first truck, Benz worked on what he called delivery vehicles, the precursors of today’s vans. In 1923, three years before the merger, the two companies developed, quite independently of each other, their first diesel-engined trucks, thereby initiating a revolution in truck propulsion.
The history of trucks bearing the Mercedes star has also been a history of mergers from an early stage onwards. Numerous renowned brands in truck history have been incorporated in what is today the DaimlerChrysler Group. It started as early as 1911 with the takeover of Süddeutsche Automobilfabrik (SAF, South German Automotive Factory) in Gaggenau by Benz, used from then on as Benz’s commercial vehicle plant. Brands incorporated at a later stage included parts of Auto Union, Hanomag-Henschel, Krupp and the American Freightliner; they all represent the diverse roots of today’s globally successful commercial vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.
The Mercedes-Benz truck history is rich in highlights, and there are any number of models whose designations still bring a gleam to the truck connoisseurs’ eyes today. There was, for instance, an 1898 truck with a gearwheel transmission and tubular radiator (an invention of Daimler’s close collaborator Wilhelm Maybach). Or the first diesel-engined trucks of 1923. During the same period, loading was made easier by low-frame trucks. The Mercedes-Benz Lo 2000 of 1932 was the first lightweight production truck with a diesel engine; impressive examples of heavy-duty trucks in the mid-thirties were the L 6500, L 8500 and L 10000 models.
Daimler-Benz started out successfully in the post-war era with the L 311 and later on with numerous trucks derived from this model, as well as with the new Unimog. The heavy-duty L 6600 developed into the standard truck among the heavyweights. With rather idiosyncratic designs such as the LP 333 and its two steered front axles, the company complied with equally idiosyncratic legislation in the fifties. Similar constraints in the late fifties gave rise to the design of new short-nose trucks. In the mid-sixties, the cab-over-engine trucks in the LP series ushered in the end of conventional trucks in Europe. In the following truck generations, the NG (“New Generation”), LK (“Light Class”) and SK (“Heavy-duty Class”), the COE had already become a matter-of-course design concept. Mercedes-Benz introduced an opposite trend in the design of vans, by changing from the COE to the short-nose design with the T1 series from 1977.
Vito, Sprinter, Vario, Atego, Actros: Since 1995 all new vans and trucks have been given names. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz launched an unparalleled renewal programme, replacing all model series within an extremely short time. Pioneering electronic control systems were introduced for the powertrain and brakes, providing an enormous technological boost to the entire commercial vehicle industry.