This idea was as simple as it was ingenious: because sales of his automobiles were initially slow, it was quite soon after the invention of the automobile that Carl Benz started looking for further uses for the new technology. In order to make the concept of a motorized vehicle accessible to a wider public, Benz invented the bus. The first vehicle was delivered to the “Netphener Omnibus-Gesellschaft mbH” bus company in the Siegerland region of Germany, today part of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The world’s first motorized bus went into service on 18 March 1895.
All the experience that Carl Benz had made with his automobiles was put to good use in developing his bus. Technically speaking, the world’s first motorized bus was in fact a converted passenger car model, fitted with what was known as a landau body – a design very familiar at that time as a carriage body. It was powered by a horizontal single-cylinder rear-mounted engine with an output of 5 PS. The drive to the rear wheels was provided by chains. The bus had space for eight people, including the driver.
DMG had caused an international sensation in 1896 with the introduction of the world’s first commercial vehicle, following a five-year development period. This vehicle provided the technical basis for the first Daimler bus models. The basic structure was taken from the belt-driven “Phoenix” automobile with two-cylinder in-line engine, which had an output of between 2 and 10 hp depending on the model. Few details remain of the first outings for these Daimler buses in cities such as Munich (1897) and Berlin (1899).
Better documented, however, is the history of the Daimler buses that operated from 1898 onward on the cross-country route between Künzelsau and Mergentheim in what, back then, was the Kingdom of Württemberg. Two Daimler buses ran initially on this 30-kilometer route, which were soon joined by a third. They were powered by a 10 hp two-cylinder Phoenix engine. There was room for 10 people on board, travelling at a maximum speed of 20 km/h. Their bodies resembled those used for mail coaches.
The buses carried post as well as passengers. But the time was still not yet right for this ingenious invention. The buses built by both Benz and DMG suffered from numerous problems, for example from completely inadequate tires. The fact that there was still no widespread availability of gasoline also presented those early bus operators with some almost insurmountable hurdles, with the result that most companies were forced to close their operations down again.
Technical innovations such as the introduction of the four-cylinder engine ultimately paved the way for a breakthrough for Daimler’s motorized bus. The first Daimler buses were delivered to London in 1899. Following the use of Daimler buses from 1899 until 1910 by the first bus operator to exist for any length of time, in the German town of Speyer, the Bavarian postal services launched their own first motorized postal service in 1905. This also carried passengers. By 1913 the Bavarian postal services were already operating 101 routes with 226 buses – 186 of them built by the DMG, one by Benz in Gaggenau.