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The History of AMG - 38 Years of High-Performance Mercedes-Benz Cars

Source: DaimlerChrysler | Published: Tue Oct 04, 2005

From its beginnings 38 years ago as an independent racing and tuning firm for Mercedes cars, Mercedes-AMG has grown into a supplier of exclusive high-performance cars, now with some 600 employees, an extensive model range and customers around the world.

Now an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz family, Mercedes-AMG has become synonymous with factory-developed high-performance vehicles. Far more than a tuner or marketing division, Mercedes-AMG is a self-contained entity responsible for all aspects of its vehicles, from development and testing to marketing. Some aspects of vehicle production are shared with Mercedes-Benz facilities.

Hans-Werner Aufrecht (A) and his partner Erhard Melcher (M) founded AMG in 1967, and Aufrecht’s birthplace of Grossaspach (G) supplied the third letter in the company name. Both had been employees of Mercedes-Benz and officially described themselves as “engineering, design and testing specialists in the development of racing engines.” The fledgling firm initially based itself in an old mill in Burgstall (near Affalterbach).

First Racing Victory in 1971

In its early years, AMG concentrated on building racing cars based on the Mercedes-Benz 300 SE sedan and competing in European touring car races. The first racing success came in 1971, when a Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3, modified by AMG with a 6.9-liter engine, took a surprise class victory in the 24-hour race at Spa in Belgium, finishing in second place overall. The 1971 success proved to be the springboard for an enviable record on the track that has continued to this day and has formed a cornerstone of the AMG philosophy (see AMG racing history at end of this section).

International Clientele Fuels Growth

AMG’s success spread well beyond international motorsports. In the 1970s, the company began to offer high-performance tuning and individualization for Mercedes customers in Europe and other markets. The transfer of technology from motorsports into production cars already formed part of the company’s philosophy.

The company built its exclusive reputation by developing impressive technology and first-class quality on the back of its involvement in racing. AMG soon became the premiere Mercedes-Benz “tuner” in the world. Through the 1970s and 1980s, AMG developed a number of special high-performance models based on production Mercedes sedans and coupes. These vehicles incorporated high-power modified Mercedes engines and race-proven modifications to the chassis and brakes, AMG light-alloy wheels and wider tires, resulting in fully developed, well-rounded high performance packages.

Strong demand for performance Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the late 1970s led to a steady increase in the number of orders received by AMG. The company outgrew its facility in Burgstall and moved to Affalterbach in 1978. In 1985, AMG opened its second factory and hired its 100th employee. AMG was now attracting customers from all over the world, including building one-of-a-kind vehicles for international clients. This experience strengthened AMG’s reputation in the world of high-performance vehicles as builders of top-performance Mercedes-Benz cars.

As an industry pioneer and trendsetter, AMG became committed to achieving and retaining a position as a world leader in terms of technology, design, and sales. Though AMG cars did not become available in the U.S. market until 1995 when the C36 AMG debuted in the U.S. market, word of AMG vehicles had already made its way into the U.S. enthusiast press. Most famous perhaps was “The Hammer” – a 1987 Mercedes-Benz 300E powered by a 360-hp 5.6-liter V8.

The signing of the cooperation agreement with DaimlerChrysler AG (then Daimler-Benz AG) in 1990 marked a turning point for AMG. Under the terms of the agreement, AMG products could be sold at Mercedes-Benz dealers in overseas markets, significantly improving customer acceptance. Further expansion led to the opening of a third facility in 1990, and an increase in the workforce to 400 employees.

AMG Comes to America

When the C-Class succeeded the 190 series in 1993, AMG unveiled the first vehicle jointly developed and born out of the agreement – the Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG, backed by a full Mercedes-Benz warranty and service organization. Initial demand for this 282-horsepower, six-cylinder screamer was limited by production to just under 1,000 cars over a three-year period.

In the U.S., the C36 AMG was followed in 1998 by the C43 AMG, the first V8-powered C-Class model. The 306-hp 4.3-liter V8 could rocket the C43 from 0-60 mph in just six seconds. Customers clamored for more AMG models, so Mercedes-Benz and AMG responded with the E55 AMG, a 349-hp powerhouse that blended super-car performance with four-door Mercedes comfort. Fueled by this customer interest, AMG developed an array of top performance Mercedes-Benz models from the growing palette of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. AMG’s brand success culminated during 1998 when DaimlerChrysler acquired a majority ownership in the company.

U.S. customer interest in AMG models increased steadily, with sales of 7,500 AMG models in 2001. During 2002, the strategy of offering an AMG model as the top performance Mercedes-Benz in every model line was achieved with the introduction of the SL55 AMG – the first SL roadster AMG offered in the U.S. The source of the SL55 AMG’s power, a new supercharged 5.5-liter Kompressor V8 was also installed in revised versions of the S55 AMG and CL55 AMG launched in late 2002. For 2004, AMG debuted the new SLK55, C55, and G55 as well as the AMG V12 models, the SL65 and CL65, the most powerful AMG models to date.

The United States is now the largest market in the world for AMG vehicles, with an over 40 percent share. The latest generation of AMG models available in the U.S. includes:

  • C55 AMG sedan with 362-hp 5.5-liter V8
  • E55 AMG sedan with 469-hp supercharged 5.5-liter V8
  • S55 AMG sedan with 493-hp supercharged 5.5-liter V8
  • S65 AMG sedan with 604-hp twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12
  • SL55 AMG roadster with 493-hp supercharged 5.5-liter V8
  • SL65 AMG roadster with 604-hp twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12
  • SLK55 AMG roadster with 355-hp 5.5-liter V8
  • CLK55 AMG cabriolet with 362-hp 5.5-liter V8
  • CL55 AMG coupe with 493-hp supercharged 5.5-liter V8
  • CL65 AMG coupe with 604-hp twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12
  • G55 AMG SUV with 469-hp supercharged 5.5-liter V8
  • CLS55 AMG coupe with 469-hp supercharged 5.5-liter V8

With such a diverse model offering and the most powerful models in its history, AMG is poised to deliver Mercedes-Benz high performance and driving enjoyment to enthusiasts.

Mercedes-AMG Today

On January 1, 1999, H.W. Aufrecht sold a majority shareholding in AMG, and the company was incorporated into DaimlerChrysler AG (DCAG). This move allowed the newly founded Mercedes-AMG to benefit to an even greater extent from DCAG’s resources and global presence. The highly specialized subsidiary has overall responsibility for the engine, transmission, chassis, brakes, aerodynamics, interior, design and sales and marketing of AMG-badged cars.

Growth of the Mercedes-AMG product line has been supported by the opening of new production, development and showroom buildings at its Affalterbach plant. The engine factory, showroom and two development buildings, built and operational in 2003, have more than doubled the space of the facility from 199,000 to 426,000 square feet. Employment at Mercedes-AMG currently numbers about 600.

One Man, One Engine

The centerpiece of the recent expansion is the new engine factory, which produces 100 engines a day for the entire range of Mercedes-AMG vehicles. Work takes place on three floors across a total area of 107,000 square feet, and about 45 highly qualified master technicians work in the new facility.

Mercedes-AMG follows a philosophy of “one man, one engine.” This means that a single technician – identified by the signature plate affixed to the engine – is responsible for the complete assembly of an AMG high-performance engine from start to finish. After a technician assembles an engine, it is individually tested and then moved to a storage facility on the upper level. Flexible manufacturing processes allow the factory to quickly adjust for changes in demand for the various AMG models. A computerized data management system continuously optimizes engine inventory.

In addition to engine manufacturing, the new production facility is home to plant equipment management, quality control, production planning, and ordering and parts logistics departments.

The Showroom

The 8,000-square-foot AMG showroom in Affalterbach, a striking piece of steel/glass architecture in its own right, offers ample room both for hosting worldwide customers and for displaying eight AMG models.

Large-format vehicle images displayed on the front of the building serve a dual purpose, acting as a dramatic signpost and business card for the new AMG showroom and also functioning as sun and heat shields for people inside.

AMG Racing Success

  • 1980: An AMG Mercedes 450 SLC takes first place in the European Touring Car Championship Grand Prix race at the Nürburgring.
  • 1986: An AMG Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16 records two victories in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM).
  • 1988: The AMG Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16 takes four wins in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM); Mercedes-Benz and AMG begin an official partnership in motorsports.
  • 1989: AMG is the most successful team in the DTM, with Klaus Ludwig and Johnny Cecotto notching up seven race wins at the wheel of the AMG Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution I.
  • 1990: Premiere of the more powerful 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II.
  • 1991: AMG Mercedes finishes at the top of the team standings and Klaus Ludwig is the most successful driver. Mercedes-Benz takes the manufacturers’ title. The DTM is at the height of its popularity, with the races attracting an audience of over 153 million.
  • 1992: AMG Mercedes again takes the team honors and Mercedes-Benz the manufacturers’ crown. Klaus Ludwig is the DTM champion driving an AMG Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II. Ellen Lohr becomes the fist woman to win a round of the DTM – at the wheel of an AMG Mercedes – while former Formula 1 World Champion Keke Rosberg also drives for the team.
  • 1993: Roland Asch finishes runner-up in the DTM in an AMG Mercedes. This proves to be the farewell season for the AMG Mercedes 190 E, the winner of 50 races.
  • 1994: The new AMG Mercedes C-Class lines up on the starting grid, powered by a six-cylinder engine. Klaus Ludwig again takes the DTM crown.
  • 1995: AMG wins the DTM championship for the third time, as well as the international ITC series in its debut year. The drivers’ champion on each occasion is Bernd Schneider.
  • 1996: Bernd Schneider drives an AMG Mercedes to second place in the ITC.
  • 1997: The new Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR, built by AMG in only 128 days, takes Bernd Schneider to the inaugural FIA GT Championship title.
  • 1998: AMG Mercedes dominates the FIA-GT series, with Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta winning all 11 races and the drivers’ championship in the CLK-GTR. AMG-Mercedes cruises to the constructors’ title.
  • 2000: In the first year of the new DTM (German Touring Car Masters) series, AMG clinches the championship title with Bernd Schneider at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM.
  • 2001: A repeat of the previous year with Bernd Schneider driving his Mercedes-Benz CLK-DTM to the drivers’ championship crown and AMG taking the team title.
  • 2002: The excitement of the DTM continues with the new CLK-DTM. Former Formula 1 star Jean Alesi makes the switch to Team AMG Mercedes after 201 Grand Prix races.
  • 2003: Bernd Schneider yet again clinches the driver’s championship as Team AMG Mercedes once again brings glory home in the DTM series.
  • 2004: Gary Paffett is runner-up in the DTM driver championship, and Team AMG Mercedes wins half of the series events.
  • 2005: Team AMG Mercedes is again a contender for the championship, with Gary Paffett, Jean Alesi and Mika Hakkinen fighting for the top positions.

The AMG Safety Car

Mercedes-AMG was represented in the Formula 1 World Championship by the SL55 AMG (official safety car) and C32 AMG station wagon (Medical Car) in 2003. The current Formula One safety car is the new SLK55 AMG Roadster. The company was also involved in international polo as a team sponsor.

In 1999, the motorsports department was absorbed into company founder Hans-Werner Aufrecht’s new firm H.W.A., located close to Mercedes-AMG. Some 170 staff now works together with Mercedes-Benz Motorsport to build racing cars and to manage the two companies’ long-standing involvement in the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) race series.

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