“Maybach lives on in the minds of the staff ”
Posted on March 27, 2009 by Lucie Maluck, Images by mtu Archive
Interview with Irmgard Schmid-Maybach, granddaughter of Karl Maybach.
When the companies Maybach Mercedes Benz AG and M.A.N. Turbo GmbH were merged in 1969 to form MTU Friedrichshafen, the Maybach name disappeared from the trading name of the firm. So how much Maybach is there still in mtu?
A very great deal, I realize that every time I visit mtu. The spirit of my father is still there in the firm, he lives on inside the workforce. It is so good to see that so many families in Friedrichshafen have worked for the company for generations. Grandfather, father and son. On one of my most recent visits to mtu I met the son of one of my father’s drivers. That driver was practically one of the family, and now his son works for the firm too. It is so nice that the spirit of my father lives on in the minds of the staff in that way.
Your family is inseparably linked with the Maybach brand. How great is your involvement today?
I am very fortunate that two of my sons have continued the Maybach name in other ventures. My eldest son, Christoph, runs the Maybach vineyard in California’s Napa Valley – and he does so with the same attention to detail as his grandfather. Christoph wants to achieve the same level of excellence with his wines as Karl Maybach did with his cars. My second son, Ulrich, runs the Wilhelm & Karl Maybach Foundation, established in 2006, where I am also a member of the supervisory board. The principle behind the foundation is mentoring. Just as Gottlieb Daimler was a mentor to my grandfather, Wilhelm Maybach, and he in turn did the same for his son Karl, the aim of the foundation is to sponsor and develop especially gifted people. The first was a young doctor from South Africa who specialized in the treatment of AIDS. We were able to help him so that he can now spread his knowledge to young doctors across the whole of Africa. And then, of course, there is the Wilhelm Maybach Prize in Heilbronn and the Karl Maybach Prize in Friedrichshafen, which were endowed by my family.
Even since the company became stock-market listed and the “old mtu” was restructured, you have remained one of the most important personalities at mtu, as is shown by your honorary membership of the MTU Friedrichshafen supervisory board. What do you think are the strengths of the company?
Two things occur to me straightaway: firstly, the quality of the engines is absolutely the first priority, and that is very important. But I am also very impressed by the way the company always looks to the future. And there again, it is clear that the spirit of my father and grandfather is still alive. For them the most important thing was always to look ahead. That is why we never had much money. What money there was, they both always invested in development. They never just made cars or engines, they always looked for potential improvements to be able to make perfect products. And evidence that the presentday company, Tognum, is looking to the future too can be seen in the current developments such as with the fuel cell. It is undoubtedly an excellent option for distributed energy generation.
Is that where you see the future for mtu?
The greater focus on distributed energy generation is a point worth emphasizing as it is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of future planning. Be it with the fuel cell or gas engines. But the diesel engine will remain a key product. The continuing technological advancement, with the use of exhaust treatment for instance, means that the company will always have the right answers to the increasingly stringent emission restrictions, I am certain of that.
Finally, a very personal question: both your grandfather, Wilhelm Maybach, and your father, Karl Maybach, are among the greatest and most important pioneers of engine design. Both were undoubtedly passionate about engineering. But what in particular distinguished the two of them?
I only knew my grandfather Wilhelm Maybach as the wonderful grandfather that I adored as a child. We often visited him at the weekend and it was always very special. My father, too, I remember most of all as a wonderful father to the family who kept away the business from us for a long time. Only after the Second World War, when we moved away from Friedrichshafen and lived in Wangen and then Garmisch, did my father start to talk to us about the business. Sometimes for hours on end in the evenings. He had an enormous sense of responsibility towards his employees, I remember that very clearly. And although he had great trust in them, at the same time he always wanted to know exactly what was going on. He never signed a letter without having read what was in it and having properly understood it. I still remember one amusing anecdote. It shows that my father was literally no good with his hands. One time when I was driving him, my car broke down on a country road. Of course, I hoped that, as an engine designer, he would be able to repair the engine straightaway. But he just said, “Now if we had this problem on paper, I could help you out in a flash. But it’s no good asking me to look under the bonnet.”
What are your personal expectations of the centenary year?
I hope that the characters of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach are honored as they really were: visionary pioneers with an enormous sense of responsibility.