And so began my interview in a 612 horsepower Mercedes headed to the autobahn with an enthusiastic Magellan scholar in the passenger seat. The notes of our discussion were brief and typed on my phone because it is surprisingly hard to write on a notepad while travelling over 200km/h. To start the interview, I asked for a recent history of the company. AMG is the sport division of the Mercedes-Benz company. They specialize in creating performance cars based off of production cars as well as their own creations. AMG is three names in one. Aufrecht, Mecher, Grossapach. The division itself has been around for 50 years. However, it has only been a part of Mercedes for the last 20 years. Prior to merging with Mercedes, AMG created its own cars. The first AMG production car was called the “Rubber Duck” and is currently in the museum I visited the day prior. In total, 100,000 cars have been produced in the last 20 years. These cars all were crafted as upgrades to the E,C,S and A classes. In 2016 5,000 production cars were sold, and AMG predicts this number will continue to grow annually. By 2020, they are projecting to sell 15,000 cars a year. This is made possible by the increase in international marketing the company has been focusing on. The brand has always been distinguished within Germany, but its reputation has been growing steadily in the international community.
The reason I included AMG in my research is it highlights the future of German engineering technologies. Mercedes-Benz was almost bankrupt following the war, and now it is one of the premier car brands around the globe. So where does it go next? AMG is part of that answer. The first topic I discussed with Mr. Engel involved engineering specifically in Germany. My main question to him was why does the phrase German Engineering carry so much weight and influence around the world today and what makes it possible for German companies to continue to operate at such a technologically advanced and profitable level. The answer was intriguing to say the least. The following is a summary of his response:
Today all engineers work together in all facets of Europe. The network of idea sharing has brought nationalities together to be able to complete new ideas. The technology of being able to search for ideas, parts, labor, etc within the international community drives engineering forward. Everyone is creative, not just Germans. German Engineering now involves every country in Europe, and has transitioned towards processing. Companies have expanded internationally outside of the boundaries of Germany through partnerships with foreign companies. An example of this was a battery company called Varta. They developed a machine to produce custom branded battery systems. This was an enormous production resource. It gave manufacturers the ability to purchase custom batteries without having to design and produce them on their own. Varta developed the technology in 1998. In 2000, it was purchased by the Deutsche Bank for 3 Billion Euros. Four years later, Varta was sold for 25 billion Euros. The company is Swiss. The batteries are produced in Singapore, Great Britain, and Rio. This is just one example of how companies now conspire together across borders to build.
My next topic of discussion for Mr. Engel was the technologies incorporated within the vehicle I was riding in as well as the future of cars produced by AMG. While walking through the Mercedes-Benz museum, I noticed different time periods held a focus on different aspects of the car to further develop. For the majority of the early history of the automobile, this included strictly performance. A few decades later, and this transitioned into comfort and luxury. Most recently, the world has seen a focus on efficiency with the rise of electric cars. In 2012, Mercedes AMG became the first manufacturer to produce an electric car to accelerate from 0-100 in under 2 seconds. I asked him for his opinion on electric cars and if they would ever replace the internal combustion engine. He believes electric cars are very good for the development of future cars incorporating new technologies. However, they could never completely replace the modern car. The materials for the batteries in the chassis/mount are dangerous and toxic in large amounts. Although electric cars run on batteries, the energy required to charge and maintain these batteries is not currently available. It could actually end up requiring more energy to sustain than internal combustion cars. That being said, other systems based on the technology developed from electric engines could be the solution of the future. He believes the next phase of development is that of safety. The recent innovations of 4-wheel drive and body control coupled with cameras and sensors have ushered a new era of safety in vehicles. He believes the next phase is automatic driving cars. The car he was driving has the ability to drive itself for up to 90 seconds. This is the current law in Germany for the maximum limit a car is permitted to drive itself. In his opinion, self driving cars would be optimal for cities and should be allowed. On the other hand, open highways and large roads should stay manually driven.