A museum with "five-star" aspirations

Feb 12, 2016
The Mercedes-Benz Museum opened in 2006 is a landmark – for Mercedes-Benz and therefore for Daimler, for the city of Stuttgart, for Baden-Württemberg, for Germany and for Europe. As a landmark, it makes people want to see and experience it. More than seven million visitors since 2006 is an outstanding success story for the Museum.
Since it opened its doors in the new location, the Mercedes-Benz Museum has dependably received its visitors from Tuesday to Sunday with the message: "Welcome to the home of Mercedes-Benz". The Museum is designed for the greatest possible hospitality – with "five-star" aspirations. Numerous factors contribute to this. The extensive exhibition, a building completely without barriers, an intelligently conceived operating concept and a motivated, well-qualified team of employees are the most important of these.
The representative visitor surveys conducted over the years confirm how well the different factors work together: these regularly show an outstandingly good satisfaction rating of 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 6 – and usually the score is even slightly better.
A total of over 7.1 million visitors since 2006 is another confirmation of success. The second-best result was achieved in 2015, with 772,750 visitors. The onrush was only greater in the year after the Museum opened.
A museum for the whole world
The Museum is also popular with visitors from other countries: 43 percent of the visitors in 2015 came from abroad, and the internally kept list of 175 countries of origin includes the Cocos Islands, Nepal and Qatar. After Germany, the countries with the highest visitor numbers are China and the USA followed by France, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Spain, India, Poland and Japan (2015 figures).
And for those wanting a personal guided tour of the Museum, these are currently available in ten languages. The free Audio Guide has eight languages and 42 hours of background material about the Museum and its exhibits.
There are plenty of parking facilities for visitors. Owners of classic cars have the choicest of these: whatever their brand, all vehicles with an H registration denoting a classic are permitted to drive onto the Museum mound and park directly opposite the main entrance. The regular multi-storey carpark also welcomes visitors with a flourish, however: the first historical vehicles are presented in glass showcases positioned directly amongst the modern cars of the visitors. And visitors arriving at the Mercedes-Benz Museum by electric car are able to recharge their vehicle batteries free of charge at six parking spaces during their stay.
Reception in the atrium
After arrival and their first view of the Museum's exterior, visitors take the main entrance and enter the atrium. The outstanding architectural concept is immediately obvious here: "The building welcomes you with calm dignity. The atrium is open at the top, and the sheer height of 42 metres as your eyes range upwards makes you very curious to know what awaits you," is how Hugo Daiber, general manager of the then subsidiary company DaimlerChrysler Immobilien, and today's Daimler Real Estate, describes the first impression when one enters the Museum. "The visible visitor lifts are an invitation to start the tour, and they rapidly take the visitor to Level 8 where it begins."
Although the building is striking, with expressive and extraordinary forms offering unexpected views and perspectives, the architects planned it so skilfully that it gives the entire stage to the exhibits. There are 160 vehicles and more than 1500 other exhibits combining the brand's history with general historical periods.  This variety is a recipe for success, and means that the Mercedes-Benz Museum is a place for everyone, not just for the automobile enthusiast. The fascination of the vehicles is added to by the architecture, with unexpected views into other areas or outside the Museum. The illustrated chronology as a detailed historical part of the exhibition is also very popular. It follows the connecting passages of Legend rooms 1 to 6. Daimler wage envelopes, order books, advertising posters, fabric samples: this is where the history of the products, company and mobility itself is shown in the context of world history. These historical events - the World Cup victory in 1954, Elvis Presley, the moon landing, the beginnings of the Word Wide Web – not only have a high information value, but also awaken personal memories among the visitors. The dark years of National Socialism are likewise a subject in this illustrated chronology.
The continuing attraction of the Museum is in large measure due to continuous updating of the exhibition: individual vehicles are replaced or added – since December 2015, for example, a racing car driven by 2014 Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and the 2015 DTM car of Champion Pascal Wehrlein have graced the banked curve in the "Races and Records" display area. Two rooms have been fundamentally reassigned since the Museum opened its doors in 2006: Legend room 6 has been dedicated to the future of mobility, and Collection room 5 has been made principally available for special exhibitions since 2009.
Special exhibitions and presentations create impulses
The first special exhibition was "E-Class Evolution" in 2009. The most recent one in 2015, "C 111 – timeless and visionary" was also highly successful with a record figure of around 200,000 visitors. There have been a total of ten special exhibitions since 2009, covering both individual Mercedes-Benz model series and topics such as the Mille Miglia, where vehicles of other brands were also to be seen.
"Art & Stars & Cars" in 2011 followed a most unusual concept: More than 250 works of art by 120 internationally well-known artists were on display throughout the Museum, entering into a dialogue with the vehicle exhibits. This has been the largest special exhibition to date. It was held in cooperation with the Daimler Art Collection, which selected and presented specific exhibits from its considerable portfolio, among them the legendary Cars series by Andy Warhol. The "Art & Stars & Cars" exhibition was aimed at the target group of art lovers, which might be seen as unusual for an automobile museum. But the Mercedes-Benz Museum sees itself as a cultural centre too, and invites its visitors to experience the exhibition in new ways all the time.
The first ten years in the new location have also seen no less than 80 or more special and subject-specific presentations since 2009. Regularly to be seen in the atrium and outside area of the Museum are new Mercedes-Benz products from the International Motor Show (IAA), and also the International Commercial Vehicle Show. One of the regular locations for the smaller presentations is the so-called "Classic Island" on Level 0, directly at the foot of the escalators. This is where brand history is presented in compact form, usually with one vehicle as the main exhibit. For example the Mercedes-Benz G-Class named "Otto" in which its owner Gunter Holtdorf spent 26 years travelling through 215 countries and covered over 800,000 kilometres.
A wide range of target groups
Most visitors come to the Mercedes-Benz Museum for the classic automobiles. So the Museum team is all the more pleased when someone accompanying them writes something like this into the visitor's book: "I only came to the Museum for the sake of my children. It far exceeded my expectations – wonderful!"
Children and adolescents are an important target group for the Mercedes-Benz Museum – more than 113,000 of them came in 2015. Among their favourite exhibits are the Mercedes-Benz Econic waste collection vehicle in Collection room 3 – in the Gallery of Helpers – and the O 302 touring coach of the German national football team for the 1974 World Cup in Collection room 4 – the Gallery of Names: these are the two Museum exhibits in which visitors are allowed to get in and sit down.
There are also tailor-made programmes suitable for different age groups for children visiting the Museum. Plus there are automobile workshops – young people are able to disassemble and reassemble a V6 engine under expert instruction. The interactive "Fascination of Design" exhibition is also extremely popular. At weekends the young visitors are able to design and model their own dream car.
School classes are also regular visitors to the Mercedes-Benz Museum. 2009 was a record year in this respect, when around 1600 classes with a total of more than 60,000 schoolkids came to the Museum.
A popular cultural centre
Each year the Museum's aspiration to be a cultural centre is emphasised by the special summer and winter events. Some are a permanent fixture in the region, for example the Open Air Cinema: this made a successful start in 2007, with 5300 visitors. By 2015 the number had risen to more than 10,000 film fans, and one quarter of the available tickets have usually been sold 24 hours after the start of advance bookings – an indication of the event's popularity.
Events such as the "jazzopen stuttgart" music festival or the International Animation Festival Stuttgart (ITFS) are very popular attractions for which the Mercedes-Benz Museum provides a stage well beyond the region. These events have artists of such high renown that many visitors are prepared to journey long distances for them.
"Stars & Cars", the concluding event of the Mercedes-Benz motorsport season and a thank-you to the feverishly loyal fans, was already a regular fixture on the site in Untertürkheim before the new Museum opened. In 2006, 2008 and 2014 it found a new home at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, with spectacular highlights: with famous racing drivers, historical and current cars and the howl of racing engines, the triangular course around the Museum ensures a real motorsport atmosphere and plenty of excitement. In 2015 the event was held for the first time in the Mercedes-Benz Arena, situated opposite the Museum. The lead-up in the Mercedes-Benz Museum was equally impressive: this was where the official press conference was held with live transmission for the public in the atrium, with racing celebrities signing autographs and legendary cars on view right up close. More than 6000 visitors followed the free invitation to the Museum.
Other areas popular with visitors are the café bar next to the atrium and the restaurant on Level 0. The latter is fronted by the Museum Shop, which also has a magnetic effect on visitors: hardly anyone leaves the Museum without a memento of some kind. The shop has the widest selection of Mercedes-Benz products anywhere in the world: model cars, books, polo shirts and much more besides.
VIPs in the Mercedes-Benz Museum
Frequent visits by celebrities add further lustre to the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The list of VIP visitors is very long. They include the astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon after Neil Armstrong in 1969, the athlete Edwin Moses, the tennis player and Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, and Charlie Watts, the drummer of The Rolling Stones rock band. These special visitors are often an unexpected bonus for the public, and many come away with an autograph to mark the occasion. One of the Museum's principles is that it remains open to the public even if the very highest VIPs are visiting.
Royals also like to visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum. In 2012 it was visited by Prince Albert II and Charlène of Monaco. In 2013 they were followed by the king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, with his wife Máxima. A red carpet, black S-Class limousines, a formal official welcome and an individual programme with a guided tour – all during normal opening hours. The house rules were for once generously interpreted for the visit by the Crown Prince of Thailand. Although animals (except guide dogs) are not usually permitted, the royal pet dog was allowed inside together with its carrier.
The Benz Patent Motor Car in action
There are 160 vehicles in the permanent exhibition of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The 161st is a replica of the Benz Patent Motor Car, which is made available for tours of the Museum site on special occasions. Swinging the large flywheel of the one-cylinder engine immediately brings the three-wheeler to life, ready to take its passengers on a tour around the Museum. "Whenever the Patent Motor Car is doing its rounds, it is watched with enormous interest," says Ursula Wehinger, head of Museum development. "And no wonder, it is the world's first automobile, and as it did then, it shows that the fundamental idea for personal mobility works well." Driving the Patent Motor Car takes a little practice, but it is not really difficult. Many a visitor follows the footsteps of Carl and Bertha Benz after brief instruction by the chauffeurs at the Museum.
Social media in the Museum
On every first Wednesday of the month, there is a regular exchange of knowledge on the subject of new media with the Social Media Club Stuttgart: Digital trends are discussed with experts during the Mercedes-Benz Social Media Nights after the Museum has closed – a highly successful event that is always fully booked. The Museum can also be proud of continuous growth where its virtual visitors are concerned. In the social networks, Facebook fans exceeded the 400,000 mark and Instagram fans the 100,000 mark in 2015.
In addition the Museum has presented its exhibits in the social media using its own web series "Museum Monday" since 2015, initially with five episodes. In an informal manner and with the quirky nightguard Uke Bosse as the main character, these three to five-minute videos open up new perspectives on the Museum's exhibits. The episodes always appear on Mondays, when the Museum is closed. The power of the social media is therefore used to create a link to the real Mercedes-Benz Museum. The topics covered to date range from the invention of the automobile and record-breaking runs to milestones in aerodynamics and vehicle safety. In 2015 the online format "Museum Monday" won the German Award for Online Communication (in the Online Video Channel category) and obtained silver in the Annual Multimedia Award (Web Video category). At the end of 2015 over 2.6 million people were following this web series on Facebook.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Cannstatt Mountain Lodge, winter 2015/16.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Cannstatt Mountain Lodge, winter 2015/16.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, outside view with surroundings.
Fascinating spatial experience: The Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, welcomes its visitors into a 42-metre high atrium.
Man-made organism: The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart has almost no right angles in its architecture.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, facade detail.
Absence of barriers is a matter of course at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, facade and Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé (W 198).
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, outside view, detail.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, outside view with surroundings.
More energy: the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart enables visitors to charge their vehicles at an electric charging station.
Multimediality in the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart: The ascent in the lift to the start of the tours on the uppermost level has an audiovisual accompaniment, with film and sound projections on the exposed concrete surfaces of the atrium.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, permanent exhibition. "Collection room 3: Gallery of Helpers".
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, special exhibition "Art & Stars & Cars", 2011.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, winter drive-in cinema, 2013.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, outside view with surroundings.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, outside view.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Open Air Cinema, 2013.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, permanent exhibition. "Legend room 5: Visionaries – Safety and the Environment".
Large stage: Apart from the exhibition itself, the programme of events in and around the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart is one of the Museum´s great strengths.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, racetrack, Long Night of Museums, 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, permanent exhibition. "Legend room 1: Pioneers – The invention of the automobile". Long Night of Museums, March 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Social Media Night, June 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, International Animation Festival Stuttgart, Tricks For Kids, May 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, outside view, June 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, special exhibition "C 111 – timeless and visionary", 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, "Cars & Coffee" get-together for classics of all brands, 26 July 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, special exhibition "Safety Cars", December 2015 to April 2016.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, exterior shot from 2015.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, jazzopen stuttgart.
Star cuisine with a unique atmosphere is provided by the Star Nights in the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart.
Mercedes-Benz Museum, Stuttgart, Long Night of Museums, 2008.