Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Early Mercedes-Benz Ads and Posters

The best of both brands: in 1924, Benz & Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft merged to pool their interests. Julius Ussy Engelhard designed this poster for the merger in 1924. It was also replicated as an advertisement in 1925.

Red star and Silver Arrows: this poster proclaimed the double victory for the Mercedes-Benz race cars at the 7th Masaryk Grand Prix in Br├╝nn in 1937.

Not just cars: the design of this advertising poster for "DMG B├╝romaschinenfabrik GmbH" from 1923 shows the DMG signet and the Mercedes star as trademarks next to each other.

Mercedes the top luxury car stolen by professional thieves, 2009-12

So how do they do it, given the various anti-theft deterrent technologies featured in Mercedes cars?

Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz vehicles were the most sought-after luxury brand among U.S. car thieves from 2009 through 2012 as the New York City region had the greatest number of thefts, an insurance-industry group said.
More Mercedes C-Class cars, a total of 485, were stolen during the period than any other luxury model, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Two other Mercedes models, the E-Class and S-Class, ranked in the top 10.
“Mercedes has been around forever,” Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the Des Plaines, Illinois-based NICB, said in a phone interview. “It’s really the car. They sell a lot of them.”
The New York City area, including Long Island and northern New Jersey, reported 806 thefts in the period out of a nationwide total of 4,384, the NICB said, citing data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Los Angeles region was No. 2, followed by Miami.
The C-Class, including 2-door coupes and 4-door sedans, is the best-selling Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. and worldwide. The starting price of a C-Class sedan is about $35,350, compared with about $92,350 for an S-Class, according to the company’s website.
“The more desirable the vehicle, the more attractive the vehicle is to thieves,” Donna Boland, a Mercedes spokeswoman, said in an email. “A significant number of Mercedes-Benz models that are reported stolen are recovered, some very swiftly, thanks to our mbrace system, which includes a stolen vehicle tracking feature.” Mbrace is an in-car communications system that connects to the Internet.
The second-most-stolen luxury car was Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW 3 Series, followed by Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti G Series, the NICB said.
California had the highest number of luxury thefts of any state at 1,063, followed by Florida with 674. The Los Angeles area had 491 thefts.
“We have such a car culture here in LA,” Commander Andrew Smith, spokesman at the Los Angeles Police Department, said in a telephone interview before the release. “There’s a lot of high-end motor vehicles. You would expect there to be more stolen vehicles in a place where the population is bigger.”
The number of luxury-car thefts has decreased in Los Angeles by almost 50 percent since 2005 as security technology improved, Smith said.
“You used to be able to steal a car with a screwdriver,” Smith said. “Now with chips, computers and alarm systems, it’s much more difficult to steal a car. The technology has been really helpful for us.”
The recovery rate of all luxury cars reported stolen in the period was about 84 percent, the study found. The vehicle with the highest recovery rate was General Motors Co.’s Cadillac CTS at about 91 percent. The Mercedes S-Class model had the worst recovery rate at about 59 percent, the NICB said.

From The Detroit News:

2014 Mercedes S Class

An Interview in the China Economic News: What the Chinese Auto Industry can Learn from American History

Thanks to Ethan Robertson for interviewing me and then following up with a second interview!

Automotive capacity
In early 20th-century China, personal transportation didn’t get much better than a rickshaw. On the other side of the world, automakers like Winton Motor Carriage Company in Cleveland, Ohio were bringing automobiles to the masses.
By 1924, however, Winton was out of business. An inability to produce enough cars to meet national demand helped bankrupt the company as the major US automakers grew stronger.
Nearly 100 years later, as China’s car market experiences an auto boom similar to that of the US, small mainland automakers may find themselves in a similar position as they struggle to serve the growing needs and requirements of today’s Chinese car buyers.
China now has more than 170 automakers. That’s roughly comparable to the more than 250 car manufacturers in the US just after the turn of the century. Like Winton, many of the Chinese firms are small, local ventures with production capacities that pale in comparison to the major automakers.
These companies may survive for now as the world’s largest auto market continues to boom, but the industry is headed for a turning point.
“China is in a total seller’s market, anything you bring in there, you will sell,” said John Heitmann, a professor at Dayton University who studies automotive history. “Someday you will get to a point where it will become a buyer’s market and that will be earth shaking. Then your marginal regional guys will be in huge trouble.”
China’s top producers are meanwhile struggling with production capacity in a different way – many are actually overcapacity. An emphasis on production over quality could sap much-needed R&D funds.
Big or small, how Chinese auto makers address this question of capacity may determine which companies dominate the market in decades to come. 
Lessons from their American cousins
Chinese automakers that want to grow beyond the provincial level should look to their historical American counterparts for the keys to turning a local operation into a national one. 
“What really made the American car market, and the survivors, was this ability to generate volume, and those that didn’t generate volume ended up, in the long term, falling to the wayside,” said Heitmann, author of “The Automobile and American Life.”
US automotive history is full of companies that illustrate this point. The 1910s and 20s saw dozens of automakers disappear all over the country. The list of now-unknown companies is littered with names like Maxwell in Tarrytown, New York, Chalmers in Detroit, Michigan and Velie in Moline, Illinois.
The number of American car makers shrank from a peak of 272 in 1909, to only 9 in 1941. Small automakers were absorbed by larger players or went bankrupt.
Meanwhile, the three big US automakers set up massive production operations based out of Detroit that could serve the entire nation. As the market consolidated, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler grew stronger.
Produce or perish
China’s 170 automakers appear to be on the same path, said John Zeng, Asia Pacific Director at LMC Automotive in Shanghai.
“We have already seen some tiny, local manufacturer dying at the moment.” While in most markets these automakers would merely disappear, the production license held by Chinese manufacturers makes them far too valuable to simply go out of business, Zeng said.
He pointed to the example of Jiangnan Auto. The struggling company, which made rebranded Suzuki-model cars, was bought by Zoyte Auto, rather than being allowed to fail. Zoyte now sells the same rebadged Suzukis under its own brand as the Zoyte TT.
Many small Chinese automakers will find similar fates. Even if they recognize they are behind on capacity, they may be too far behind to mount a comeback.
Take, for example, Zhejiang Jonway Automobile. Jonway’s production capacity of only 30,000 units makes it one of the smallest automakers in China. SAIC, China’s largest automotive manufacturer, sold 4.49 million vehicles in 2012, thanks in part to its joint ventures with foreign automakers.
When faced with such a steep disadvantage, Jonway is likely to go the way of Jiangnan and be absorbed by a larger competitor.
”[Small automakers] will exist only at the convenience of the big producers, and they could be stamped out whenever they decide to put there foot down,” Heitmann said.
Overcapacity at the top
Unlike small, regional manufacturers, China’s larger manufacturers are actually able to produce many more cars than they would be able to sell.
Klaus Paur, Global Head of Automotive at Ipsos market research, said that overcapacity is concentrated in the top 20-25% largest automakers.
“They are probably using 70% of their production capacity. This also means that they have high inventory at the dealership level,” Paur said.
State-owned Chery, China’s largest vehicle exporter, has four factories with a combined capacity of 900,000 units, but sold only 500,000 in 2012.
The company’s focus on quantity over quality has become clear since it started selling some of its models in Australia in 2011. Since its introduction, the brands image has been marred by multiple quality issues, including poor performance in standard safety tests and recalls for asbestos used in the car’s exhaust and engine gaskets.
This kind of recall is increasingly unacceptable in the Chinese market, as Chinese buyers are expecting ever higher quality. But their overemphasis on capacity has distracted from technology at the largest automakers.
Chinese automakers should put the brakes on capacity in order to get a handle on their technology gap. Research and development needs to take a more prominent role in their plans for growth.
Without a change in priorities, large Chinese companies will be in just as much trouble as their smaller counterparts. Otherwise, the dangerous combination of overcapacity and low technology means China’s biggest car manufacturers could find themselves overproducing a product that Chinese consumers don’t even want. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The BMW i3 is on its way!

Hi folks -- last year while at BMW in Leipzig we learned quite a lot about BMW's development efforts related to its' new i3. Yesterday there was plenty in the news about the i3 product launch, and below is an article form the Detroit News. At the heart of this new car is the feature of carbon fiber body panels, and this involves a plant in Washington state. So the BMW i3 is emerging as a trans-national world car in its own right. One could write a nice essay on the global assembly line and its various connections.  Did this phenomenon start with the lowly Ford Pinto -- engines and transmissions!

Frankfurt, Germany — BMW AG is showing off the production model of its new i3 electric compact that uses carbon-fiber materials to keep the weight down and improve driving performance.
CEO Norbert Reithofer stressed at a New York unveiling that the car was designed as an electric from the ground up. The i3 is “born electric,” he said.
The company says the i3, built in Leipzig, Germany, will go from zero to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds. Its range is billed as 80-100 miles. Models with an optional range extender gas engine can go as far as 200 miles.
The car goes on sale in November in Germany and other European markets starting at 34,950 euros ($46,000) and reaches the U.S., Japan and China next year.

From The Detroit News:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Engineering Careers at Ford: Diverse Technical Backgrounds Needed in an Industry Under Transition

Hi folks -- an article taken from the Detroit News. As the industry changes, so does the need for engineering professionals.

Mikhail Igor Kluzner is a former Soviet Union engineer who designed laser weapon systems.
Venkatesh Prasad wrote software that could detect the geometric pattern on heat-shield tiles of the International Space Station.
David Bell worked on a particle accelerator at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
Despite coming from such diverse backgrounds, all three now work for Ford Motor Co. They develop software that helps the automaker’s popular EcoBoost engines deliver maximum performance and efficiency.
Their careers at Ford are representative of a shift in hiring throughout the automotive industry — away from mechanical and hardware engineering, toward software and electronics.
“We’ve talked to an awful lot of people,” John Shanahan, who is responsible for hiring engineers at Ford, said in a telephone interview. “These days, you do need to have that diversity, to work with the complexities we have today.”
Kluzner, Prasad and Bell may have more unique backgrounds than most Ford engineers, but the diversity of their careers is representative of what the automaker is looking for.
Some of the new hires, like Bell, are car guys. But because of their backgrounds, they bring fresh perspectives.
“You have these experiences of looking at things in a different way,” Bell said. “It helps you to always remember that there are so many different things and the obvious solution isn’t always the right one.”
The nuts-and-bolts engineering in Ford’s EcoBoost engines isn’t revolutionary. Turbocharging, direct-injection and variable camshaft timing have been around for years.
What’s unique is the “secret sauce,” as the software is known at Ford. It’s allowed the automaker to improve engine efficiency without altering major components.
“The limitation really isn’t the software,” Bell said. “It comes when you’re trying to solve hardware problems. We can make wonderful things happen on a smaller and smaller engine, but there comes a point where you can only go so far.
“We’re able to push things closer and closer to the performance limits.”
One of the benefits of Ford’s software is that it increasingly allows engines to be anticipatory. Software anticipates that the transmission will soon upshift based on engine speed and how hard the car is being pushed. The onboard computer closes the throttle slightly and leaves the turbo wastegate closed, maintaining boost pressure for a seamless shift without turbo lag.
“Sometimes, the software helps anticipate driver demands for power even before they fully depress the accelerator,” Bell said.
Software, however, is no silver bullet. The engines — which come in five sizes, ranging from a tiny three-cylinder 1-liter to a 3.5-liter V-6 for large SUVs and pickups — can often achieve greater fuel efficiency than similarly sized engines and can also offer better performance. But they can’t necessarily do both at the same time. That has frustrated some consumers.
Software upgrades allow for a range of efficiency improvements, and can even could be used to update and improve older engines. Ford, for instance, recently announced it would update software on 77,000 hybrid vehicles already on the road to lessen fuel economy variability.
But the automaker is unlikely to take that route on gas engines, at least anytime soon, said Raj Nair, Ford’s product development chief.
For instance, Ford couldn’t update an older engine and then claim it would get better fuel efficiency than the previous Environmental Protection Agency window sticker.
And updating old engine software — with the exception of fixing any significant problems that could arise — would divert the attention of engineers working on the next generation of EcoBoost software.
“It’s kind of like Pandora’s box,” Bell said. “There’s certainly cases where you could do that, but in the case of changes that are going to be so substantial, you would continue to have to have people work on the old stuff forever.”
(313) 222-2504

From The Detroit News:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another "Loose Woman" in West Germany and another Mercedes: Helga Matura and her Mercedes 220 SE Convertible

The case of the unsolved murder of Helga Matura (1933-1966) never approached the level of publicity of Rosemarie Nitribitt, but there do exist some chilling parallels.  She drove a white Mercedes 200 Se Cabriolet in Frankfurt while looking for clients, and she was seen by some Germans as a "Noble Prostitute." Neighbors  found her dead, stabbed in the neck, on January 27, 1966.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Night Cruise-In, Beavercreek, Ohio, July 26, 2013

Hi folks -- a busy night at the cruise-in! As I was about to leave I started to take a photo of an old Harley with a side car and two women came up to the motorcycle.  They didn't want to get in the way of the shot, but as I told them, I prefer having people in the photo as much as the vehicle.  After all, the vehicle is just an inanimate thing, and not nearly as interesting as people.  So here is a shot with Nancy and Mary ( I do not know who is who!)

Below was a very nice 1959 Triumph TR-3. The owner only has $12,000 in it!

 Note the cut-down height of the windshield.

The Mercedes-Benz 190 Sl -- also known as the "Nitribitt-Mercedes" -- it was a car for loose women!

Every day I learn more and more, and it is astonishing what I do not know about car culture, American, German, or  whatever.

A thank you to Ms. Gundula Tutt, who sent me this message:

"Dear John,

there in fact IS a connection between the 190SL and prostitutes in the 1950s:

Germany's "most well-known woman of loose morals" at that time, Rosemarie Nitribitt, owned a black 190 SL. Together with it's prominent female driver and her poodle, the car back then was talk of the town in Frankfurt am Main and the whole country. Rosemarie Nitribitt, practised her profession quite openly and displayed a very eccentric, luxurious lifestyle in public (including her beautiful car). She found her clients in the high society like politicians or managers and was some kind of "living scandal" in prudent post-war Germany, until she was killed under mysterious conditions in 1957. This case has never been solved and ads even more drama to the life of this enigmatic woman. The story later served as basis for two motion pictures...."

Rosemarie Nitribitt (1933-1957). One of her customers gave her a used Opel Kapitan as a present, and later using her own money she bought a black 190 Sl roadster, which colloquially would be referred to as the Nitribitt-Mercedes. Police later estimated later that in 1956 she earned about 80,000 DM.

Mercedes 190 SL Advertisements -- During the 1950s in Germany, a Car Popular with Women "of Loose Morals?"

I posed the question above due to a reference on p.185 of Rob De La Rive Box's Encyclopedia of Classic Cars: Sports Cars 1945-1975.  The author argues that the car was not popular in Germany because of these owners, presumably, prostitutes. This cannot be totally right, can it? An urban legend, German style?

I have always liked these cars,although under-powered (105 bhp at 5,700 rpm). Put simply, it is a very beautiful car, with a gorgeous dash and leather interior.  When I was an undergraduate student at Davidson ColLege there was a pompous little JACK-ASS ( I think he was a doctor's son) from West Virginia that had one in light blue. An effeminate sort of fellow, so it fit him well.  But I could learn to like one of these cars too, so maybe I should not throw rocks at others!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Heavy Traffic: Images of the Automobile and New York City Congestion during the 1970s: Documerica Project Photos

Midtown traffic congestion and jaywalking pedestrians, in April of 1973. (Dan McCoy/NARA) # 

 Idled traffic heading north on Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) near 42nd street, April 1973.
An auto chassis, submerged in Jamaica Bay, near Breezy Point, in May of 1973.

Holland Tunnel traffic, backed up on Canal Street, in May of 1973.

6th Avenue and 32nd Street, New York City, April 1973. 

A traffic accident on a crowded street in Harlem, in May of 1973.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Photos of Smog during the Early 1970s in America:The Documerica Project at the EPA

These and many other photographs were taken by EPA photographers during the early to mid-1970s and illustrate the nature of the smog problem that was a part of American urban life at that time.  We think of smog as something that afflicted California; but as these photographs attest, it was a widespread urban problem that affected the health of Americans in New York City and New Jersey; Birmingham Alabama, Cincinnati, and many other highly dense and industrialized urban areas.  We have coma along way since the early 1970s in terms of air quality, as automobile engines have become far cleaner and more efficient.






Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Photographs, Posters, and Advertisements

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198 II, 1957 to 1963). What a car,what a woman!

24-hours of Le Mans, 1952. Racing sports car Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 194). Racing poster by Hans Liska

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W 198 I, 1954 - 1957). Advertisement, 1954, french

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198 II, 1957 - 1963). Advertisement, 1958, english

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster (W 198 II, 1957 - 1963). Advertisement, 1958, english

Wheels for my Mercedes 380 SL R107

The above photo is of a 1979 M-B 450 SL R107. See those wheels? They really look terrific, and those are what I eventually want on my 1980 380 SL! That mesh look is perfect, like the appearance  I had on my 1990 Mustang convertible years ago.