Guestauthor Culture

Junior reporters: With Dieter Zetsche at the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Nick and I are practically veterans at Genius. So far we’ve published eleven reports, either solo or as a team, and in the process we’ve traveled all over the world of Daimler. But even the best experiences have to end sometime.

Our last assignment as junior reporters for Genius was in a class of its own. The location was a real standout, and so was our interview partner. We were sent to the Mercedes-Benz Museum to meet the CEO of Daimler, Dieter Zetsche!

Dream cars and car dreams

I love classic cars! That’s why I was thrilled that our meeting point with Dieter Zetsche was right in the midst of a group of elegant classic models. “This is one of my best appointments today!” he said to us by way of greeting — and of course that made Nick and me beam.

He told us about his first car, a VW bug, which he enjoyed tinkering with — once he even replaced its entire engine. Nick really enjoyed hearing that, because his dream is to one day own an auto workshop.

Apropos dreams and dream cars, Dieter Zetsche told us that the car we were just then standing in front of was probably his favorite automobile ever. It was a 300 SL with cool gullwing doors. But the fantastic look wasn’t the main reason why this car was equipped with such doors. The car is held together by a “space frame,” which gives it a stable structure. But the struts along the sides of this framework are too high to accommodate normal car doors. So the engineers came up with a practical solution: They simply designed doors that opened at the top instead of sideways. Nick and I were fascinated.

Drive systems of the future

Then it was time for us to move on. After all, a tour of the Mercedes-Benz Museum offers a great deal more than beautiful classic cars. During my only solo assignment for Genius, I got to know a fuel cell vehicle up close. Besides, Nick and I both know from school that raw materials such as oil and gasoline will be used up someday. So we obviously had a few questions about that.

Dieter Zetsche explained to us the alternative drive systems that Daimler researchers are working on: electric, hybrid, and fuel cell drive. A car with a fuel cell drive, the NECAR 1, is on display here at the museum. This car’s motor generates power by bringing hydrogen and oxygen together. The end result of that is real water — which you could even drink. It’s a fascinating technology, which I learned about during my visit with the Daimler engineer Leoni Pretzel.

It will probably take quite a while to build charging stations for electric cars and hydrogen filling stations for fuel cell cars everywhere. Dieter Zetsche calls this “building an infrastructure.” I wonder if this will be an absolutely normal thing by the time Nick and I are grown up and driving cars ourselves.

A Silver Arrow in large and small sizes

The last stop of our tour with Dieter Zetsche was really fun — it was all about motorsports! Nick was delighted, because he’s fascinated by anything that’s fast. Incidentally, Dieter Zetsche told us he’s a big motor sports fan himself.

As we walked toward the curving display of racing cars, we noticed one thing immediately. All of them were the same color: silver. Nick pointed out that Mercedes racing cars are all called “Silver Arrow.” Why is that?

Dieter Zetsche gave us an unexpected answer. Many years ago, on the evening before a race, the racing team found out that their cars were exactly one kilogram heavier than the permissible maximum weight. The team looked for solution. How could they make their cars lighter overnight? They came up with the idea of scraping off all the paint, which weighed a total of three kilograms. After they had scraped off the white paint, all you could see was the bare aluminum, which looks like silver. And because the cars were as swift as arrows, people started to call them “silver arrows.” That was a great story, and we can’t wait to tell it to our friends!

Unfortunately, this marked the end of our day at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. It had gone by really fast, and we had seen and experienced so much! Dieter Zetsche thanked us for our work as junior reporters for Genius — and ended our meeting with a surprise. In keeping with the big Silver Arrows we were standing in front of, he gave each of us a genuine Mercedes Silver Arrow model car — with his autograph! We were blown away!

Three great years as junior reporters for Genius

Both of us are so grateful! We’d like to thank all of the Daimler employees who invited us to visit them and gave us support over the past three years — and also all the people who read our posts and watched our videos. We had a great time doing our assignments as junior reporters for Genius. We’re sure to meet again at Daimler at some point in the future — at the very least, we’ll make another tour through this beautiful museum.

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She’s 14 years old and is in the seventh grade of a college preparatory high school. She’s got lots of hobbies: playing the piano, soccer, ballet, singing, painting, and inventing things. Emma and Nick are the two permanent Genius junior reporters. In their posts they regularly report on fascinating new inventions and technical phenomena and conduct interesting interviews with experts.