On 26 June 1896, the Stuttgart-based haulage operator Friedrich Greiner ordered a Daimler motor carriage from the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) in Cannstatt. Because the intention was to use it as a hire cab to carry passengers, Greiner also arranged for it to be fitted with a taximeter. Company founder Gottlieb Daimler in person was responsible for recommending his four-speed belt-driven model (known henceforth as the belt-driven car), which had an output of 8 hp, for use as a taxi.
The first motorized taxi went into service eleven years after the invention of the automobile, in 1897. Friedrich Greiner was able to cover a distance of about 70 kilometres a day. Far more than any horse-drawn cab. In view of the immediate success of the Daimler motor carriage, the businessman soon renamed his company the “Daimler Motorized Cab Company”. By 1899 his fleet had grown to comprise seven Daimler taxis. The years that followed would see similar taxi companies established in many other major European cities.
At that stage still an independent company, Benz & Cie. in Mannheim soon also became involved in the taxi business. In the early years of the 20th century, there was a tremendous surge in the number of motorized taxis to be found in cities. Electric, steam and even hybrid-powered taxis all found their way onto the roads. Among the hybrid taxis, with combined electric and gasoline drive systems, were numerous examples of the Mercedes Mixte model, built by Austro-Daimler in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. But this particular technology did not catch on.
As well as the various motor taxi companies, this period also saw the first driving schools for taxi drivers come into being. These were run by the operators themselves, as a way of familiarizing staff who were still more used to horse-drawn vehicles with the new technology. It soon became very fashionable to be seen in a motorized taxi with a uniformed driver at the wheel. Both companies, Benz and DMG, steadily continued to extend their range of taxis.
Following the merger of the two companies to form Daimler-Benz AG, in June 1926, the first Mercedes-Benz taxi arrived on the market in 1927: the basis for it was provided by the 8/38 hp model. As in the case of the world’s very first motorized taxi, the taxi version of the 8/38 hp was also a landaulet, upon which the rear section of the roof could be folded back – an option welcomed by many passengers in fine weather.
The success story for diesel taxis was also initiated by a Mercedes-Benz: The 260 D of 1936 was the first standard-production diesel passenger car in the world. The range also included taxi versions of the gasoline-powered models 170 V and 230. Even before the Second World War, Mercedes-Benz had developed a special taxi package for these autos. Amongst other features, this included “a coat rail with a pull-cord to either side, right and left, of the back of the partition wall”.
From 1949 on a new diesel model, the 170 D, dominated the taxi ranks, as did its successor, the 170 DS, from 1952. The robust build and durability of Mercedes-Benz taxis soon became legendary. Over the years that followed, Mercedes-Benz became the world leader in taxis. Mileage of more than a million kilometres with the original engine and transmission is nothing unusual for a Mercedes-Benz taxi.
The shopping streets around the Potsdamer Platz, a boat trip or a visit to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum: Berlin has so much to offer.