40 years evolution in the car industry

The enclosed picture, courtesy of Swiss business bi-weekly Finanz & Wirtschaft and German car magazine Auto, Motor und Sport, is an interesting illustration not only of Mercedes-Benz evolution over the last 40 years, but also of the car industry as a whole (for the Swedish audience by the way, it also provides a good example of why Saab post-GM never stood a real chance of survival, being a mass-market producer).


In 1974, Mercedes was present in three segments; luxury cars with the S-class and the 600, mid-sized cars with the 8 sedan and coupé, and sports cars with the W107 SL and SLC. 40 years later and very much like the other brands that dominate today’s mass car industry, the three segments have become seven, with a far larger number of cars in each segment. And where there was previously not a segment/model, one has been invented (think shooting breaks and grand coupés, to name but a couple). 40 years ago, Mercedes built 6 different models, today it’s 25.

Obviously this is the result of quite an amazing production development in terms of common parts and platforms, but also of far-reaching but often little-known collaborations between brands on different levels. However, what has fundamentally not changed over these 40 years is the usage of petrol and diesel engines under the hood, although these have obviously been heavily developed and refined. When we look at the same picture in 40 years, when we’re gray and old, is that perhaps the big change we will see? What are your thoughts? Comments are as always welcome!

3 thoughts on “40 years evolution in the car industry

  1. Carl Gustav

    Meh! Look closely, and you will see that the models on offer is (mostly) a derivative from the 3 segments mentioned above. In 40 years, there will still be a 3 model ‘back bone’… or none at all! 🙂

  2. Not sure I agree with you that the Viano is a bi-product of the MB 600 or the GL of the 8 😉 but I see your point. It’s interesting however that what we were taught about not cannibalizing your client base at business school apparently doesn’t apply anymore, at least in the car industry!

  3. Diversity is good! I like many of the “niche” models that Mercedes, Audi and BMW have released during the last decade. I think manufacturers have to move even further in that direction, not the least in order to attract a younger audience to car ownership.
    After a 100 years, give or take, with the Otto engine burning either petrol or diesel, I believe we will see a quick adoption of electric, hybrid, flybrid, etc. technologies. A “smartphone” with a big display was a novelty less than a decade ago, but now all phones are like that…

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