Research & development

Research and development as key success factors

Research and development have always played a key role at Daimler. Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz invented the automobile more than 130 years ago. Today, we are shaping the future of mobility. Our goal is to offer our customers fascinating products and customized solutions for needs-oriented, safe and sustainable mobility. Our technology portfolio and our key areas of expertise are focused on this objective.

The expertise, creativity and drive of our employees in research and development are key factors behind our vehicles’ market success. At the end of 2018, Daimler employed 25,600 men and women at its research and development units around the world (2017: 24,600). A total of 17,700 of those employees (2017: 16,800) worked at Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, 5,300 (2017: 5,300) at Daimler Trucks, 1,300 (2017: 1,300) at Mercedes-Benz Vans and 1,300 (2017: 1,200) at Daimler Buses. Around 5,800 researchers and development engineers (2017: 5,400) worked outside Germany.

Our international research and development network

With our global research and development network, we are present in the key markets with direct proximity to our customers. Our biggest facilities are in Sindelfingen and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim in Germany. Our most important research locations in North America are the US R&D headquarters in Sunnyvale, California (main facility); Long Beach, California; Portland, Oregon; and Redford, Michigan. Our most important facilities in Asia are in Bangalore, India; the Global Hybrid Center in Kawasaki, Japan; and our research and development center in Beijing. Mercedes-Benz Research & Development India (MBRDI, with headquarters in Bangalore) is Daimler’s largest research and development center outside Germany. Activities at MBRDI focus on digitization, simulations and data science. In November 2018, we announced plans to build a Research and Development Tech Center China with a total investment of approximately €145 million. This new center will further expand our presence in what is now our biggest single market. It will also be our second major R&D site in Beijing, following the Mercedes-Benz R&D Center, which was established in 2014. The new R&D Tech Center is scheduled to begin operating in 2020.

In September, we opened our new Test and Technology Center in Immendingen. We have invested more than €200 million in this new Daimler research location, which is located at a former military site and covers a total area of 520 hectares. The center brings together our global vehicle testing activities. Among other things, we will use the facility to develop alternative drive systems such as hybrid and electric vehicles of the EQ product and technology brand, and to test future assistance systems and automated driving functions.

Das neue Prüf- und Technologiezentrum Immendingen

Along with our internal activities, we also maintain close contacts with external research institutions. For example, we work together with various renowned research institutes around the world and participate in international exchange programs for next-generation scientists.

We are open to cooperation – worldwide. Our partners include promising startups such as what3words

Mercedes-Benz and what3words: The Revolution of Voice Navigation

and Anagog, as well as suppliers such as Bosch, or, in selected fields, competitors such as BMW. Some of our Chinese partners are Baidu, Alibaba and Tsinghua University. We operate digital hubs as development centers around the world, for example in Berlin, Seattle, Lisbon and Tel Aviv.

DigitalLife TechTalks #1 meet and greet Sabine Scheunert (about Anagog)

Targeted involvement of the supplier industry

In order to achieve our ambitious goals, we also cooperate very closely with research and development units from the supplier industry. Daimler must be closely intermeshed with supplier companies in order to deal with the rapid pace of technological change in the automotive industry and the need to quickly bring new technologies to market maturity. Such cooperation is all the more important in light of the increasing digitization of processes throughout all stages of the value chain. Strong partners from the supplier industry are also essential for our efforts to develop and offer new concepts for future mobility. As part of our joint research and development work, we aim to ensure that the Group retains the key technological expertise it needs in order to maintain the uniqueness of our brands and to safeguard the future of the automobile in general.

New strategy for brands and patents: everything under one roof

Without the protection and management of its patents, brands and designs, Daimler could never have become as successful as it is today. That is why we seek to effectively protect and manage the Group’s intellectual property and the innovations that inspire our customers around the globe. In this manner, we also intend to ensure the successful continuation of our tradition that goes back more than 130 years. We upheld this tradition in 2018 by registering almost 1,900 new ideas for patents, with an increasing focus on the CASE technologies. In addition to industrial property rights, which are intended to safeguard our innovations for future mobility over the long term, the unique visual aspects of our products are protected with over 7,500 designs registered in 2018 (2017: 7,800). Our portfolio of nearly 36,300 trademark rights worldwide (2017: 35,800) also serves to protect the Mercedes-Benz brand, our new EQ brand for electric mobility, and all our other brands in each relevant market.

In today’s fast-paced digital world, it is no longer enough simply to develop good ideas. For this reason, within the framework of our “Project Future,” we have taken the opportunity to consolidate under one roof all topics and tasks relating to our patents, our strong brands, our copyrights and the licenses we issue to contract manufacturers. The result is the establishment of the Daimler Brand & IP Management GmbH & Co. KG subsidiary. This organizational unit will focus exclusively in the future on the management, utilization, protection and assertion of all intellectual and other property rights at the Daimler Group.

€9.1 billion for research and development

We want to continue helping shape mobility through our pioneering innovations in the coming years while moving ahead with digitization throughout the entire Group. As announced in our Annual Report 2017, we therefore slightly increased our very high level of investment in research and development to €9.1 billion in 2018 (2017: €8.7 billion). Of that amount, €2.5 billion (2017: €2.8 billion) was capitalized as development costs, which represents a capitalization rate of 28 % (2017: 32 %). The amortization of capitalized research and development expenditure totaled €1.5 billion during the year under review (2017: €1.3 billion). With a rate of 5.4 % (2017: 5.3 %), research and development expenditure also remained at a high level in comparison with revenue. Research in the year under review focused on new vehicle models, extremely fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly drive systems, new safety technologies, automated and autonomous driving and the digital connectivity of our products.

The most important development projects at Mercedes-Benz Cars focused on the successor models of the current S-Class and C-Class, as well as on the EQ electric brand. We are also investing in low-emission combustion engines, vehicle connectivity, automated and autonomous driving, and the development of new innovative safety technologies. Mercedes-Benz Cars spent a total of €7.0 billion on research and development in the year under review (2017: €6.6 billion). Daimler Trucks invested €1.3 billion in research and development projects, as in the previous year. The division’s most important projects were in the areas of emission standards and fuel efficiency, as well as customized products and technologies for important growth markets. Forward-looking technologies for electric mobility, connectivity, and automated and autonomous driving are also becoming more important. R & D expenditure at Mercedes-Benz Vans focused mainly on the new Sprinter generation and the further development of the Vito and the V-Class. In addition, Mercedes-Benz Vans continued to forge ahead with the electrification of its commercial model series. Daimler Buses primarily focused its development activities on new products, the fulfillment of future emissions standards and measures to further reduce fuel consumption. Alternative drive systems, in particular electrification technology and other forward-looking projects related to automation functions and autonomous driving also played a key role during the year under review. (See graphic B.36 and table B.37)

Daimler AR2018 B.36 Research and development expenditure

B.37 Research and development expenditure by division

  2018 2017 18/17
In millions of euros     % change
Daimler Group
    thereof capitalized
Mercedes-Benz Cars
     thereof capitalized
Daimler Trucks
     thereof capitalized
Mercedes-Benz Vans
    thereof capitalized
Daimler Buses
    thereof capitalized
Innovation and safety
Sustainability at Daimler