The American Mercedes

Gary S. Vasilash

One could make the argument that this, the Mercedes M-Class, is “the American Mercedes.”


It has been built in the company’s manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, since 1997. It is built exclusively in the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) plant. It has never been built anywhere else.

But interestingly, there was an “American Mercedes” that goes back 125 years. And it involved Gottlieb Daimler, Wilheim Maybach (the man for whom that uber-lux sedan, now out of production, was named) and William Steinway—yes, as in Steinway Pianos.

Seems that Maybach and Steinway (who was born Wilhelm Steinweg in Germany) knew one another, and Maybach introduced Steinway to Daimler. Steinway was interested in producing stationary and marine engines developed by Daimler in the U.S. under license.

Mercedes Steinway 

Daimler and Steinway formed the Daimler Motor Company in New York on September 29, 1888. Although it was originally about engines, in 1893, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, Gottlieb Daimler’s private company based in Germany, showed a modified version of its wire-wheel car at the Chicago World’s Fair, which got people thinking about building a car.

In 1895, William Steinway said in an interview, “The cars which we intend to produce for the American market will be capable of carrying between two and four people and will be driven by engines with between 2 ½ and 3 ½ hp.”

Steinway died in 1896, before any cars were built.

Steinway’s shares in Daimler Motor Company were sold to General Electric in 1898.

American Merc

The “American Mercedes” was presented at the National Automobile Show in Madison Square Garden in January 1905. It was produced at the factory of the Daimler Manufacturing Company in Long Island City, New York. It was essentially a replica of a car being built in Stuttgart- Untertürkheim, Germany, a 45-hp car.

The end essentially came on February 13, 1907, when the U.S. factory was gutted by a fire, destroying eight completed cars and 40 under construction.