Today of course, “Mercedes” – the correct trademark is the combination “Mercedes-Benz” – is above all known as a registered brand name. Brand protection dates back to the year 1902. But back when it all began, Mercedes was essentially this: a woman. The brand was named after Mercédès Jellinek. How did this come about? Well, Emil Jellinek, her father, was a diplomat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a businessman, and a lifelong enthusiastic fan of an innovative invention called the automobile. He bought his first Daimler wagon in 1897, and shortly after, he started a very successful business selling DMG automobiles himself. For the race week in Nice in 1899, he registered his Daimler touring car with the race organizers under the pseudonym “Mercédès” as an homage to his daughter, who was ten years old at the time. The touring car became a triumphant winner. The actual trademark “Mercédès” became official on April 2, 1900, when Jellinek signed a contract with DMG to the effect that “a new type of automobile was to be produced and the said motorcar was to bear the name Daimler-Mercedes.” The further course of the story is familiar to all of us. Fun fact: To this day Mercedes is the only automotive brand that carries a woman’s name!
100 Things you should know about Daimler | #21
Mercedes is a woman
According to recent estimations, the Mercedes-Benz brand is worth about €49 billion. The fact that the name “Mercedes” has become the epitome of luxurious automobiles all over the world – as are many other aspects of the start of the automotive age – is due to a woman.
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Although her first name is so firmly linked to the automobile, Mercédès Jellinek herself most likely never owned a car herself – according to reports, she was merely a passenger throughout her life. Mercédès Jellinek died in 1929 and thus was only able to witness the beginnings the fast technological development of the automobile. I cannot help but to imagine what she would have said if she had known how world-famous her name would become.
But Mercédès Jellinek wasn’t the only significant woman in the history of the Daimler organization. The triumphal progress of the automobile might not have been possible without Bertha Benz either. She was a pioneer and a trailblazer for mobility, partly because she was more daring than her husband, Carl Benz – who was the first to admit to that. She demonstrated that with the pioneering journey she made in 1888: The “Bertha Benz Drive” from Mannheim to Pforzheim, which today is known as the first long-distance trip in the history of the automobile.
And thanks to her initiative, courage, and persistence Bertha Benz was also a model for many women since the 20th century. Furthermore, the workers at the Benz factory esteemed Bertha so highly that they addressed her respectfully as “Workshop Supervisor” when she visited the factory. In his memoirs, Carl Benz called her “my second mainspring.”
Enough reminiscing about the past because today as well, Daimler would be unthinkable without women. The Board of Management currently has two female members, Renata Jungo Brüngger (Integrity and Legal Affairs) and Britta Seeger (Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales and Marketing). Moreover, not only at the very top management level but also throughout the company – in production, in management, and in administration – several tens of thousands of female colleagues prove every day that Mercedes is still a woman to this day!
This is also the case in the world outside of the plant gates: For more than half a decade, the global initiative She’s Mercedes has been promoting the fundamental principles of networking, sharing, and dialog in more than 70 countries. In the years since 2015 it has developed into a strong community in which women share their experiences, individual stories, goals, and success stories and get to know those of other women. It’s a well-established worldwide network to socialize, make new contacts and develop new and existing ideas. True to the motto “Mercedes is a woman — and women are Mercedes!
In this column we regularly present interesting, odd or generally unknown facts from the world of Daimler. This installment was deliberately released on March 8 — International Women’s Day.