Wed, 04 October 2023
When it comes to automotive excellence, few countries can rival the rich engineering heritage of Germany. Renowned for their precision, innovation and luxury, German cars have consistently set high standards in the automotive industry. Kristian Harrison takes a look at how German automakers have set the benchmark over the years.
Germany and motoring are two institutions which are practically inseparable. In fact, many would argue that Germany is the cradle of the modern-day car industry, with a reputation as one of the most innovative in the motoring domain. In 2022, it had the sixth-highest total motor vehicle production worldwide, with six million models made per year by a labour force of more than 850,000 people.
Germany’s story with motoring began right at the beginning. The first ever motor car in the world, aptly named the Motorwagen, was invented by German engineer Karl Benz in 1885. Appearing like a horse carriage, he developed and patented his invention, the four-stroke internal combustion engine, in 1886. Soon Benz developed a better model running on gasoline and went for its commercial production in 1887. The vehicle was launched on the market a year later and was an instant hit. In 1888, Benz’s wife travelled 65 miles in the car to see her ailing father. It drew public attention and soon Benz’s car began to be sold in Germany and France.
In the early 1900s, several German marques came into existence. While Benz Sons dominated the market, Opel produced its first German car in 1906 and became the first German manufacturer maker to set up a mass production assembly line. In 1935, Opel was the first company to cross 100,000 vehicle productions in a year.
In 1937, a new state-owned automobile company created affordable yet speedy motors connected by autobahns across Germany. Its name? ‘Volkswagen’ – or ‘The People’s Car’ – and specifically the iconic Beetle, which still to this day is the second highest-selling car of all time. These days, the wider Volkswagen Group is now the world’s largest automaker accounting for 40 percent of all vehicles sold.
Whenever the phrase ‘luxury cars’ is uttered, it’s almost impossible to not think of the titans of Germanic engineering. The likes of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche immediately spring to mind.
Audi, established in 1910, became the first German car company to exclusively focus on vehicles with powerful engines. Its earliest models Sport-Phaeton and Type B and subsequent six-cylinder models had more powerful engines than their contemporaries. BMW originally began as a company making engines for aircrafts. Indeed, the company’s famous blue-and-white logo actually represents a spinning propeller.
It was only after World War I that it pivoted into automobile production, reverting back to constructing engines during the Second World War, before again reinventing itself and entering the car market in 1959, focusing on its ultra-luxury sedans and the sports car segment.
Furthermore, Germany also has a storied history with racing. Audi has achieved great success in endurance racing as manufacturers at the Le Mans 24 Hours and as far as individual talent goes, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg’s 12 combined Formula One world championships.
Above all, German cars are renowned for their efficiency and resilience. A stereotype it may be, but with cutting-edge technology, exceptional reliability and a national mentality that demands quality, it’s a deserved one.