German engineering is a gift to the modern automotive industry, which is a feeling many enthusiasts have voiced over the decades. Even with stiff competition from American and Japanese car manufacturers, Germany has a global reputation for automotive excellence above all other countries.
It’s true that there’s an unbridled joy to hearing the earthy thrum of a ‘67 Mustang flexing its 271 horsepower on the open road. The mental image of muscle cars from America’s yesteryear once gave fanfare to its national car manufacturing.
Japanese cars, on the other hand, have introduced to the market some of the most reliable, high-profile names in modern manufacturing. Japanese imports, like the prized Mazda MX-5, has become something of a classic in the making.
Despite the popular models and makes associated with other countries, German engineering is still a major influence in modern day car manufacturing. The competitive market aside, German cars are always praised for their quality. So, what is it that makes German cars so good?
A Case for Why German Cars Are Better
1) A Rich History for Car Design
When it comes to the design and manufacture of German cars, there’s a rich history steeped in innovation and ingenuity.
The earliest inventions of working automobiles have been attributed to German engineering, which date back as early as the late 1800s. By the 1900s, mass production was in full force, which set the stage for high-profile car manufacturers to emerge.
Here are the key dates from the history of German car manufacturing:
- In 1926, Mercedes Benz officially formed
- In 1928, Bayerische Motoren Werke (or BMW) emerged onto the market, not only as a rival, but following a decision to move into automobile design and away from airline engineering
- Although Ferdinand Porsche started their company in the 1930s, it was until 1948 that Porsche released their first sports car onto the market
- The 1950 rolled out the Volkswagen Beetle, which created fanfare throughout the following decades
Did you know… Karl Benz, a German mechanical engineer, first patented the internal combustion engine in 1879. By 1885, he was credited with designing the first practical automobile (which included his internal combustion engine).
2) Motorsport, racetrack heritage and speed
When it comes to motorsport, there’s wisdom in testing cars on the track before developing production vehicles. The Nürburgring motorsport complex is an iconic example of a legendary raceway, which is as much as testing bed for F1 as it is for enthusiasts and automotive journalists including Top Gear. In fact, according to many experts, these tracks have helped innovate the automotive industry for the better, such as the debut of the Audi Quattro four-wheel driving system.
But in Germany testing a car’s speed isn’t always just a spectator sport, or something to watch from the side-lines. Instead, the famed Autobahn, a limited access highway, is a national treasure for car enthusiasts that traces a map of high-speed road around the country. Even though cars have speed restrictions built-in, the Autobahn is often a showcase for those who want to test those upper limits.
The reliable perception of German engineering comes down, unsurprisingly, to the various celebrated models and makes from key global brands – many of which are proudly German. Praise for German car design comes in part from the passion behind the country’s automobile industry; Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, and Porsche are all highly publicised, globally recognisable brands.
When auto journalists talk about German engineering, they’re often doing more than merely referencing a historical contribution to car manufacturing. Jeremy Clarkson, writing for Top Gear, understood how German cars speak to the interests and desires of the everyday enthusiast, observing how: “It’s Germany that’s making the cars we really want to buy.”
Ultimately, German engineering is a reference to how the country sets industrial standards through its mechanically excellent car models and makes.
4) Memorable Marketing
German cars are also more memorable because they’re marketed as desirable products.
VW, for example, had a public image in the later half of the twentieth century that associated its ‘Bug’ and ‘Bus’ models with the theme of peace. In recent times, German brands have become associated with innovation in the area of fully-electric, luxury car design, with the likes of Audi and BMW marketing what a sustainable future for cars could look like.
German carmakers understand the role of public perception, which plays a key part in how they market cars and how they want drivers to see their products. Consider the following slogans for these widely celebrated German carmakers:
- BMW: “Freude Am Fahren” – which means, “The Ultimate Driving Machine”
- Porsche: “There is No Substitute”
- Mercedes: “The Best or Nothing”
- Audi: Vorsprung durch Technik which translates to “Advancement through Technology”
But is there more to German car manufacturing than a marketing stunt?
The greatest sell to an enthusiast is an unrivalled driving experience, and German cars almost always deliver. Mechanically, German cars are better than most, according to critics. Reliability issues aside, German cars are ideal for those craving speed and comfort, and the peace of mind that they only have to change vehicles on average every 200,000-250,000 miles (with proper maintenance).
Unlike Japanese or American cars, however, German models are designed with European-style roads in mind, which is more ideal for UK drivers who are often navigating tight, winding roadways (when they’re not queued in traffic).
So, Why are German Cars so Good?
Can the highly public success of German car-manufacturing really be summarised as a rich history combined with motorsport success and memorable marketing?
There’s a technical answer, which is more accurately measured in statistics. In 2020, the German automobile industry generated 378 billion EUR in total sales, which was only slightly slumped because of the effects of Coronavirus globally. Another 2.65 million cars were exported, mainly to China, in that same period. In Germany, export trade has a total estimated worth of 184 billion EUR as of recently. That means that German cars, which are prolifically manufactured and just as quickly innovated, are in peak demand across the world.
If global exports and tangible revenue figures aren’t enough to justify why German cars are the best, then the only thing left is to compete or see how they perform on the racecourse. You just better hope it’s not against a Porsche.
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