In the world of car enthusiasts, any discussion about which brand takes the top step of the podium can get quite heated and has likely been the cause of a good few friendships braking harshly over the years however, it is this very passion the automobile inspires that makes brand loyalty such a primal thing.

It is not only primal it is also hugely subjective – and I freely accept that but, several identical personal opinions indicate a trend.

Just for fun, ALL THINGS MOTORING conducted a straw poll of its contributors, friends, family and others with the question “Which of the German automakers ranks top of the heap?”

This was not about a single model or model derivative or about who builds the fastest car – rather it was about which one of the companies has its collective act together as a company, as a producer of cars and as an ambassador for its brand the best.

Overwhelmingly, the result was Mercedes-Benz.

In many respects an interesting result – certainly I can remember as a young petrolhead scorning the diesel Mercs of yesteryear as boring and designed only for ‘old’ people. Now that I am an ‘old people’ the cars being produced by Mercedes-Benz are a very, very far cry from those my friends and I mocked in the mid-sixties.

Mercees-Benz produced the world’s first internal combustion in a self-propelled automobile – the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen – and the first diesel production car, the 260 D in 1936, and some of those were still on the road for us to laugh at in the ’60s.

Yet, for all our jesting, it was impossible to ignore the fact the company also produced what is arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever made in the form of the 1963 230 SL ‘Pagoda’ and not to forget the 1954 300 SL ‘Gullwing’, the 300 SEL 6,3 from 1966 and then, in 1968, the move into the W114 compact cars.

Except for certain select sporty derivatives, the mass-production Mercedes-Benz remained rather conservative in terms of looks and performance while other German marques were reshaping their own identities and producing more modern-looking and zippier cars, even at the base level.

In 1974 the 450 SEL 6,9 brought Mercedes-Benz back into the powerplay with a car that both looked and acted the part and this was followed in 1979 with another absolute stunner in terms of looks in the form of the 500 SL and its small 300 sibling.

That year also saw the introduction of G-Class as Mercedes-Benz began to expand its automotive footprint into the growing offroad sector. The 190E 2,4 was launched in 1983 and is widely regarded as the forerunner to the C-Class of 1993 and the car that propelled the brand into a new level of ‘Joe Average’ buyer activity.

Mercedes Benz G-Wagon dring in the german landscapes

Looking for the best quality pre-owned Mercedes-Benz - CHANGECARS

Younger buyers who were all about other German marques suddenly discovered Mercedes-Benz was not only building cars that looked as good as its opposition but were at the forefront of technology and more than capable of holding their own in an ‘autobahn’ shootout.

No more snide behind-the-hand remarks!

In 1995 the German aftermarket performance company AMG became an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz strategy with the introduction of C45 AMG and SL73 AMG 7,3 V12. While both of these were priced more for the select few, Mercedes-Benz intensified its campaign to reach new buyers by launching the A-Class in 1997 and expanding its offroad SUV presence with the M-Class.

With the world changing around it, Mercedes-Benz reacted to environmental concerns and issues of fuel by launching the BlueTec series in 2007 and then continued on a path of constantly updating and refreshing the looks, performance and technology across the board, as well as expanding its association with AMG – culminating last year in the launch of the latest generation A-Class AMG variants.

Separately, but equally, it also devoted itself to becoming a major player in the alternative energy sector, starting in 2019 with the EQ which was followed the following year by the EQA and last year the EQS, placing it firmly in the battery-electric vehicle sandpit.

Locally, it is backing this up with the placement of Mercedes-Benz branded recharging stations at selected shopping centres and other sites to bolster public confidence in the practicality of electric vehicles and help assuage the ‘range fear’ factor.

Emil Jellinek-Mercedes, a Jewish-Austrian automobile entrepreneur, registered the trademark in 1902, naming the 1901 Mercedes 35 hp after his daughter Mercedes.. He was a businessman and marketing strategist who promoted ‘horseless’ Daimler automobiles among the highest circles of society and customers included the Rothschild family and other wealthy clients.

At the Nice race he attended in 1899, Jellinek drove under the pseudonym ‘Monsieur Mercédès’ and many consider that race the birth of Mercedes-Benz as a brand. In 1901, the name ‘Mercedes’ was re-registered worldwide as a protected trademark. The first Mercedes-Benz branded vehicles were produced in 1926, following the merger of Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler's companies into the Daimler-Benz company on  June 28 of the same year.

In November 2019, Daimler AG announced Mercedes-Benz, until that point a company marque, would be spun off into a separate, wholly-owned subsidiary called Mercedes-Benz AG. The new subsidiary would manage the Mercedes-Benz car and van business. Mercedes-Benz-badged trucks and buses would be part of the Daimler Truck AG subsidiary.

Mercedes-AMG became a majority-owned division of Mercedes-Benz in 1999 and Daimler's ultraluxury Maybach brand was under the Mercedes-Benz Cars division until December 2012 and it now exists under the Mercedes-Maybach name, with the models being luxury-focused, enhanced models of Mercedes-Benz cars, such as the 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600. 

Throughout its long history, the company has been involved in a range of motorsport activities, including sports car racing and rallying. On several occasions, Mercedes-Benz has withdrawn completely from motorsport for a significant period, notably in the late 1930s, and after the 1955 Le Mans disaster, where a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR rammed another car (an Austin-Healey), took off into the stands, and killed more than 80 spectators. 

Stirling Moss and co-driver Denis Jenkinson won the 1955 Mille Miglia road race in Italy during a record-breaking drive with an average speed of almost 157 km/h in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.

Although there was some activity in the intervening years, it was not until 1987 that Mercedes-Benz returned to front-line competition, returning to Le Mans, Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM), and Formula One with Sauber.

The 1990s saw Mercedes-Benz partner with British engine builder Ilmor and campaign IndyCars under the USAC/CART rules, eventually winning the 1994 Indianapolis 500 and 1994 CART IndyCar World Series Championship with Al Unser Jr. at the wheel.

Mercedes-Benz returned to F1 as an engine manufacturer in 1994, with the engines being designed and manufactured by Ilmor in Brixworth. It initially partnered with Sauber, before switching to McLaren in 1995.

Although the Mercedes engines were not successful at first, they later won driver's championships for Mika Häkkinen in 1998 and 1999, and for Lewis Hamilton in 2008, as well as a constructors' championship in 1998. Mercedes part-owned McLaren, and the collaboration had been extended into the production of road-going cars such as the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.

Mercedes continued their success by winning the drivers' championships from 2017 to 2020 and the constructors' championships from 2017 to 2021, becoming the first team to win seven consecutive ‘double-championships’ In these years, Hamilton was the champion in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, while Rosberg won in 2016. Their unbeaten streak was broken in 2021 when Max Verstappen of Red Bull-Honda won the drivers' championship.

South Africa has a proud record within the Mercedes-Benz family with the manufacturing facility in East London now a leading producer of both left and right-hand drive C-Class models for the world.

Michael Pashut, owner of ALL THINGS MOTORING and a lifelong fan of another German brand seems to be rethinking his allegiances. . .

Colin Windell