Between the turn of the century and World War I the development of the automobile made considerable headway worldwide. The offering became more varied, and the vehicles were increasingly adapted to different applications. During the first decade of the 20th century, significant progress was achieved in engine design, including the overhead camshaft with vertical shaft drive and overhead valves. Experiments were carried out at a very early stage with three-valve technology and double ignition, as well as with four-valve technology and triple ignition – technologies which boosted output but did not prevail for the time being.
Before World War I, Mercedes racing cars already played a dominant role in European motor sport. Mercedes passenger cars gained more and more customers by virtue of their high performance and great reliability – virtues which were impressively demonstrated by victories in motor racing. World War I put an end to all civilian development work, however one thing was sure: the internal combustion engine had become indispensable, whether mobile, stationary or as a power plant for vehicles, ships and aircraft.