In the second episode of automotive geography, AutoShack.com takes a look at another European automaker. Italy seems focused on incredible speed that comes from a history of artistic flair, but there is another European country that also pushes the envelope of speed and does so with incredible precision and engineering. This week, AutoShack.com takes a look at the automotive geography of Germany, best known for their precise sports cars.
Basic Automotive Geography – The Automotive Motherland
The automotive geography of Germany may be the most important of all. The general view of Germany is a serious country with hardworking engineers producing exact pieces of machinery. There have been several important cultural advancements to come from Germany as well. In the 16th century Martin Luther lead the protestant reformation against the Catholic Church, which would later go on to become the dominant religion in the area. In art, the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Georg Friedrich Händel, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were all musical composers born and raised in Germany. Even with such incredible artists, the main export from Germany continues to be precision built performance machines. Many people consider America and the Ford Model T to be where the modern vehicle got its start, but that isn’t true. The first truly modern car was built by a German man named Karl Benz, who received the first patent for an internal combustion powered automobile in 1885.
Automotive Geography – Benz: The Very First
The first Model Ts started appearing in 1909, but over 20 years before that the modern automobile had been invented in Germany. After some unsuccessful positions as an engineer at metal factories, Karl Benz eventually teamed up with his wife Bertha to begin perfecting and honing his idea of a two-stroke engine. In the process of creating the perfect working engine, Karl Benz also created various speed regulation systems, ignition systems, the spark plug, the carburetor, the clutch, the gear shift, and the water radiator. Benz was forced to incorporate the company he was designing all these these incredible inventions under, and felt unhappy with the way the new company was forced to run. Benz was fond of bicycling, and had a passion for the idea of a horseless carriage. Benz created a new company with the owners of a bicycle repair shop, a company that would eventually become what we now know as Mercedes-Benz. Using his new 4 stroke internal combustion engine powering a vehicles rear wheels, as well as ditching wooden carriage wheels for wire spoke wheels, Karl Benz was given the patent for the first “automobile powered by gas” in late 1885. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen was capable of producing roughly 2/3 horsepower and had a top speed of about 16 KM/H. The Benz family would go on to create more firsts, including the first long-distance travel by automobile, participation in the first automobile race, and one of the first land speed records held.
Economic crisis was hitting Germany hard in the 1920’s. In 1926, The Daimler Motor Group merged with Benz, and would now create vehicles under the Mercedes-Benz name. The companies new logo, a three-pointed star, was made from Benz’s idea of engines for air, land, and sea.
Mercedes Benz is best known for their lineup of luxurious sedans and performance sports cars. Mercedes currently offers a wide range of models, from basic 5-door models to track performers, off-road wagons to luxurious sedans. Mercedes are known best for their luxury, and the price that comes along with it. Another early German car company was founded by Wilhelm Maybach as the Maybach Manufacturing company. Today, Maybach refers to the highest, most luxurious models of not just the Mercedes lineup, but of the worlds finest automotive geography.
Early Automotive Geography – Audi
Audi R8While Karl Benz is regarded as the first person to produce the modern automobile, there were other Germans who were also creating horseless carriages at the time. After some trademark disputes for using his own name in other production companies, August Horch eventually founded his own company. His son had suggested the name Audi, which is the Latin equivalent of Horch, meaning to hear. In 1910, the Audi Type A was created, and a surviving model today is measured at 26 horsepower, capable of speeds up to 75 KM/H. In 1932, Audi merged with 3 other companies, including Horch, the company Audi’s founder left and later got into trademark disputes with. The union of 4 companies created the Audi Union Auto Group. This union of 4 companies is where the current logo comes from, with the 4 rings representing the 4 companies. By 1959, Daimler-Benz owned The entirety of the Audi AG. As time went on, the two companies began to differ on ideas for engine sizes, and eventually the company came under control of another leading automaker in Germany’s automotive geography, Volkswagen.
The Most Well Known Automotive Geography – The People’s Car
Perhaps the most well known automaker in the German automotive geography is the Volkswagen Auto Group. With affordable models and proven reliability, Volkswagen produces a wide range of vehicles and is the 3rd largest auto manufacturer in the world.
In 1937, The Volkswagen company was officially formed by the German Labour Front. Pre-Nazi Germany saw demands for an affordable, every day car for the people like what was offered in the United States. The person leading this idea was a man named Adolf Hitler. Hitler argued for air cooling in the engines to avoid freezing, and that Germans could pay into a savings plan that would allow any German to own a car. This of course was fraudulent, and the entirety of the funds were seized when Russia captured Berlin in 1945. Hitler wasn’t completely satisfied with any current production companies attempt at making the first people’s car (although he did end up using designs from a man named Ferdinand Porsche), and decided to create the first state-run vehicle production company. The company was forced to produce vehicles for Germany’s war effort against the Allies. When Germany lost the war, the Volkswagen plants were taken over by the British.
One of the most recognizable cars in history, the Volkswagen Beetle took shape as it was aerodynamic for use with a small, affordable engine. Today, the Beetle (along with the Golf and Passat) sits on the list of the 10 best selling cars of all time. The Beetle remains in second place, dominating global automotive geography and beaten only by the Toyota Corolla.
Volkswagen’s current lineup features sporty small vehicles, sedans and hatchbacks, and SUV and crossovers. The Golf and Passat are common choice for family vehicles. Volkswagen also owns many other vehicle producers, two of which are on this list. Audi and Porsche are owned by the Volkswagen auto group in addition to Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini. Volkswagen as a concept owes much of their success to Porsche, more than most people think.
Sport Automotive Geography – Porsche
Porsche 356Porsche created the Beetle. A bold statement when you consider something like the 911 turbo and the lack of racing performance found in Beetles. When the original demand for a true people’s car (or Volkswagen in German)was announced, it was Ferdinand Porsche that created the Volkswagen, which would go on to be nick named the Beetle. While Ferdinand Porsche’s involvement with the war effort is less than prestigious, he still created a great deal of advancements to the automotive landscape through creating the beetle and creating the Porsche brand.
After the war, Porsche had the difficult task of rebuilding in a very rough automotive geography. Using a combination of new and re-used beetle parts, the company began producing faster, more race capable models. After some success in racing, the company released the first 911 in 1964. The 911 is perhaps the most iconic member of the Porsche family, with its traditionally round or oval headlights rising above the front hood. Porsche sells mainly performance based vehicles today, but has recently adopted the idea of selling a SUV crossover style vehicle. The high degree of performance from Porsche doesn’t come cheap, with many models breaking the $100,000 price point.
Automotive Geography – The Solo BMW
While many of the other automotive companies in Germany are in some form or another related, BMW has found success on their own. Post WW1, BMW had restrictions on what kind of engines they could produce. In time, these restrictions were lifted, and they began production of automobiles in 1928. The 30’s saw the rearmament of the German army, and BMW was responsible for creating engines for the Luftwaffe. It wouldn’t be until the 50’s that BMW would finally start producing automobiles regularly.
Today, BMW is known for their blend of high performance and luxury at a (relatively) low price. The BMW brand today focuses on sports cars, SUV crossovers, and hatchbacks. BMW also is one of the most forward-looking companies, with their new i8 being one of the most talked about and anticipated electric vehicles to be released. While BMW does offer exceptional vehicles, that hasn’t stopped their drivers from being rated as some of the worst on the roads.
BMW is also the parent company of Rolls-Royce, known for producing some of the most luxurious cars in the world. Along with Rolls-Royce, BMW heads up the revamped Mini, which has been enjoying success since being reintroduced in 2002
Yet Another Rich Automotive Geography
Germany is another European country with a rich automotive geography. Despite two world wars being fought on its doorstep, the countries engineering spirit has persevered. Today, some of the best performing automobiles are designed and built in Germany. In the most recent F1 season, Mercedes completely owned the podium all year. The trend in the automotive industry is moving away from the combustion engine, and Germany isn’t going to sit by as the market evolves. The current trifecta of hypercars, the Mclaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, and Porsche 918 all feature hybrid drive trains. The BMW i8 is one of the most advanced electric vehicles to be released in years. There is no denying the future of German automotive geography.
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