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Prof. Dr.-Ing. Werner Breitschwerdt to be inducted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame
- Celebrations will take place during the 2009 Geneva Motor Show
- Honour awarded for services during his time at Daimler-Benz AG (1953 to 1987)
- Breitschwerdt shaped key model series and technologies
On 3 March 2009, Prof. Dr.-Ing. e.h. Dipl.-Ing. Werner Breitschwerdt will be inducted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame. The ceremony coincides with the Geneva Motor Show and Professor Breitschwerdt will accept this honour in person. Breitschwerdt joined Daimler-Benz in 1953, retiring from his position as CEO in 1987. His name is closely associated with the Mercedes-Benz 190 (model series W 201) in particular, which was also known as the 'Baby Benz' and was debuted in 1982. As part of the PROMETHEUS research programme launched in 1986, Breitschwerdt played a definitive role in shaping the vision of accident-free driving by way of electronic assistance systems. Under his stewardship, various research vehicles and technology vehicles featuring alternative drive concepts were also designed.
Werner Breitschwerdt is the sixth person associated with Daimler AG and its predecessor companies to be accepted into the European Automotive Hall of Fame. This honour has already been bestowed on the founders Carl Benz (2001) and Gottlieb Daimler (2001), as well as Wilhelm Maybach (2004), Béla Barényi (2007) and Bruno Sacco (2007). These recipients are also members of the Automotive Hall of Fame located in Detroit in the United States. Both organisations exist side by side and recognise different individuals.
Various positions held within Daimler-Benz AG
During his career, Werner Breitschwerdt worked his way up through various roles in the company. He first joined Daimler-Benz AG in 1953 as a young electrical engineer – a qualification of his that greatly benefited the company, particularly during the 1970s
He was initially employed in a variety of positions within the passenger car body division, which encompassed bodyshell and body construction. In July 1973, he became director and head of development for this section, with styling (as the design division was then known) being added to his responsibilities one year later. In 1977, Breitschwerdt joined the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG as a deputy member before being appointed a full member in 1979. In this capacity, he was responsible for research and development and therefore all technology and topics of the future within the Group. From 1983 until 1987, Breitschwerdt was Chairman of the Board of Management and CEO of Daimler-Benz AG.
During the 1960s, electronics started to be incorporated into vehicles. The anti-lock braking system (ABS) is a prime example. It combines components that thus far had only operated mechanically and hydraulically – the brakes – with electronic sensors and associated control systems. Breitschwerdt worked closely on this innovation in its early stages. As an electrical engineer with extensive knowledge of the automotive system as a whole, he appreciated the importance of this technical development. Daimler-Benz unveiled ABS for the first time in 1970. Although it took some years for the system to be debuted worldwide in a production vehicle – the 1978 S-Class – during this time the technology behind the system was switched from analogue to digital, in order to achieve the required level of in-vehicle operational reliability.
Another important step was the PROMETHEUS European joint research project (Programme for European Traffic with Highest Efficiency and Unprecedented Safety). This was initiated in 1986 when Werner Breitschwerdt was CEO of what was then Daimler-Benz AG and involved cooperation between several European car manufacturers, electronics companies and suppliers, universities and institutes over a period of eight years. The result was numerous technologies offering huge benefits. At Mercedes-Benz, these were translated into specific technical products such as the DISTRONIC PLUS cruise control system and the automatic PRE-SAFE® Brake system. These and other technologies also form part of the vision of accident-free driving, the catalyst behind many of the company's innovations for cars, both now and in the future. PROMETHEUS has therefore had a lasting impact, the effects of which continue to be felt.
A completely new vehicle generation
Werner Breitschwerdt's name is also linked with several Mercedes-Benz model series. While he was responsible for research and development, a totally new generation of vehicles came into being: the S-Class W 126 (1979 to 1991), the mid-sized W 124 (1984 to 1995) and the SL R 129 model series (1989 to 2001), thereby cementing Mercedes-Benz's leadership in terms of both technology and design.
Breitschwerdt achieved a tour de force in the shape of the 190 model (W 201), which came onto the market in 1982. He applied typical Mercedes-Benz advantages such as safety and comfort to compact models – something that is only possible by deploying sophisticated technical solutions like multi-link independent rear suspension. Entering this segment of the market was rather controversial at the time and represented a risk for Daimler-Benz. However, the success of the W 201 model series as the direct predecessor of the C-Class meant that Breitschwerdt's gamble paid off. At the same time, the W 201 was the first step in diversifying the brand across many segments. This went on to become a clear strategy during the 1990s.
Breitschwerdt was committed to pursuing Daimler-Benz's longstanding philosophy of vehicle and occupant safety. Under his leadership, Daimler-Benz made further significant progress by boosting the economy and eco-friendliness of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. He also received personal accolades for this work.
In all vehicles, Breitschwerdt succeeded in combining traditional Mercedes-Benz standards such as quality, reinforcement and proven technology with progressive, dynamic and stylish attributes. This invigorated the international market, setting the course for the future. Breitschwerdt also focused on extending and developing the Mercedes-Benz range of commercial vehicles.