They are united by the fact that they ushered in the era of individual automotive mobility in 1886 — on the one hand through the three-wheeled Benz Patent Motor Car “made in Mannheim”, and on the other hand through the Daimler motorized carriage originated in Stuttgart. In the black-and-white photographs, these two men with their distinctive beards and solemn expressions in the pathos of their time look like brothers in spirit.
And still: According to the documentary evidence they never actually met each other in person. There was only one encounter which can be described as fleeting in every sense of the word: on September 30, 1897 in a hotel in Berlin where the constituent assembly of the Central European Motor Car Association, the first automobile club in Germany, took place. The two pioneers were invited as founding members and guests of honor. Carl Benz wrote in his memoirs: "I have never spoken to Daimler in my whole life. I once saw him from afar in Berlin. When I got closer – I would have liked to meet him – he was gone in the crowd."
This is all the more remarkable because the invention that put them in the history books could have easily brought them together, since their homes in Stuttgart and Mannheim were less than 100 kilometers apart as the crow flies. Such a meeting might have been just as good for publicity as the first long-distance car trip, which was made by Carl Benz’s wife Bertha from Mannheim to Pforzheim in 1888.
But why is it that Daimler and Benz have firmly established themselves in many people’s memories even without having had a close personal acquaintance? Probably, first of all due to the fact that for decades their two names denoted one of the world’s most famous companies: Daimler-Benz AG. It was created in 1926 by the merger of the world’s two oldest manufacturers of motor vehicles, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie. Although the merger created the foundation of what was probably the South-Germany regions’ biggest success story of all time, it was definitely not a love match. In the midst of the 1920s, which were plagued by inflation and crises, the banks had pressured the two companies to merge. All the same, the liaison of the two names endured for 72 years — until it was replaced after a “wedding in heaven” in 1998 by the German-American double name DaimlerChrysler. After the separation from Chrysler in 2007, the name Daimler went solo. In the latest twist in terms of nomenclature, three legally independent stock corporations have existed under the umbrella of Daimler AG since November 2019: Mercedes-Benz AG, Daimler Truck AG, and Daimler Mobility AG.
But beyond the plant gates, companies’ official names are usually relegated to commercial register entries and business cards. The names by which the public knows them basically remain unchanged. In the Mannheim region people still say they drive a “Benz”, and in Stuttgart they say their car is a “Daimler”. The Group’s two founding fathers, who during their lifetimes were competitors rather than partners, probably would have liked the distinction. But there’s a different reason why they didn’t celebrate their companies’ merger in 1926 with a glass of the local sparkling wine: Carl Benz was in his 80s at the time and had retired from the operational business. And Gottlieb Daimler had already died in 1900, at the age of 65.