Well-founded answers to questions about the future of automotive development
Arduous building phase finally crowned with success
Group Research yields important findings through today
In November 1969 Hans Scherenberg gave the go-ahead to set up Daimler-Benz Research, which laid foundations for many important developments in motor vehicle engineering, for instance the anti-lock braking system, the airbag and the navigation system. Today, Daimler Board of Management member Thomas Weber is responsible for both Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
The Research unit was not formally established by the Board until 1971, but the preparations began immediately after Scherenberg, full member of the Board of Management responsible for Development, gave his associate Hans-Joachim Förster instructions to build up the department. Scherenberg derived the necessity for this step from the pressing problems of the period – the quest for automotive drive systems with lower emissions, for example, and increasingly safer vehicles as well. The holder of a doctor’s degree in engineering realised that the company needed well-founded answers if it was going to continue to be in the forefront of automotive engineering and set standards.
Before the end of November 1969 Förster presented a comprehensive organization chart. He had very clear ideas about the way in which the research done by a motor vehicle manufacturer could contribute important findings to vehicle production. The early research areas were entitled “Future – Environment –Transport”, “Vehicle”, “Propulsion Systems” and “Technical Physics”. Their purview encompassed all the questions of the period: for example low-emission internal combustion engines, electric vehicles, continuously variable transmissions, sensors, assistance systems, suspension technology, brake technology and headlamps, but also societal trends for the mobility of the future. Viewed from the present and with today’s state of the art in mind, one might say it was entirely logical to formulate these topics; but in the late 1960s many of the research fields were exceedingly visionary and were not understood in all their detail by everyone. As a result, establishing Group Research was not always easy.
The building of the unit was a difficult affair during the first years, but it succeeded. Not least of all, the oil crisis of 1973 showed how important well-founded knowledge is to answer questions about the future. Just a few years later, no one questioned the importance of Group Research anymore.