Even among non-car enthusiasts, the Mercedes-Benz logo is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world. It’s elegant yet simple, consisting of a three-pointed star within a circle. But how did it come to be?
The origins of the Mercedes-Benz logo actually date back to 1909, which predates the formation of the company by 16 years. Back then, the companies that would eventually merge to make Mercedes-Benz—Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) and Benz & Cie.—were still two independent entities.
At the time, DMG was being run by Paul and Adolf Daimler, the sons of company founder Gottlieb Daimler. The brothers decided that their company needed a new logo and settled upon a symbol used by their late father, who died in 1900.
During his time as technical director of the Deutz gas engine factory, Gottlieb Daimler used a three-pointed star to mark the family home on a postcard. The three-pointed star was also a fitting symbol for Daimler since the company’s engines were used in land, sea and aeronautical applications.
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL unrestored
The brothers officially registered the symbol on June 24, 1909, with the German Imperial Patent Office, and were granted a trademark for the three-pointed star on February 9, 1911.
Meanwhile, Benz & Cie. was working on a new logo of its own that featured the word “Benz” surrounded by a laurel wreath that was a nod to the company’s racing success. The symbol was filed with the German government on August 6, 1909, and was granted trademark protection on October 10, 1910.
Several years later in 1925, DMG and Benz & Cie. agreed to merge their automotive businesses along with their logos, creating Daimler-Benz AG and the circle-encrusted star that first appeared on a road car in 1926 and is still used by Mercedes-Benz to this day.
Although the Mercedes-Benz logo has changed little over the last 9-decades, its placement has. The three-pointed star was originally fixed at the top of a car’s radiator, forming a prominent hood ornament. But in the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz decided to fit its racing cars with a flat version of the logo to improve aerodynamics. In 1952, the 300 SL sports car became the first road-going Mercedes-Benz to feature a central star in the middle of its radiator rather than on top of it. And it’s because of that first SL that sporty Mercedes-AMG products wear a grille-mounted logo instead of the hood-mounted symbol used on most Mercedes-Benz road cars.