The business relationship between the former Ulm commercial vehicle manufacturer Karl Kässbohrer and the former Daimler Engine Company in Stuttgart goes back as far as 1910.
The very successful and well-matched partnership between the two brands in the EvoBus started long before the largest European bus and coach manufacturer was set up under the roof of the Daimler AG Group. This is something to be remembered shortly before the 100th birthday of the first Kässbohrer bus which drove along the suburban route Ulm-Wiblingen on 11th Februar, 1911, and in the year the brand Setra is 60 years old. In the review “The German Automotive Industry from 1886 to 1979” published by the German Association of the Automobile Industry (VDA), Karl Kässbohrer is already mentioned as early as 1908 as a body building manufacturer specializing in trailers for trucks, and this is then followed by a larger entry for 1910: “Karl Kässbohrer Vehicle Manufacturer supplies not only carriages but also open Phaeton limousines and Landaulet bodies to Daimler, Opel, Adler and NSU.” At this time, most automobile manufacturers had their car bodies built by cartwrights and Phaeton limousines were comfortable touring cars. Landaulet is a French expression for a type of body which can be driven either with the roof open or closed. Because of this, the last section of the roof for these cars – which usually had four or six doors – was completed with a folding convertible-type top. Landaulet were mainly used as state cars and were the premium products of the best known manufacturers such as Mercedes, Maybach or Rolls-Royce.
Ten years after it had been set up, the cartwright’s business was known as “First Ulm Body Manufactory Karl Kässbohrer” and it moved from Lautenberg in the shadow of Ulm Minster to the northern edge of the city and what was then the Upper Karls Street, close to the railway lines Ulm–Stuttgart and Ulm–Aalen/Ellwangen. Following this very important development for the still young workshop, Karl Kässbohrer started his commercial vehicle manufactory in Ulm and over decades it grew to be the most important branch of industry in the city, providing work and daily bread for thousands of people and many generations.
The 11th February, 1911, was an important milestone and the actual start of the eventful history of Kässbohrer buses. This was the day the first Ulm bus line was opened, going from Ulm’s Minster Square to the southern suburb of Wiblingen. The transport company was founded especially for this event with Karl Kässbohrer as one of the partners and his share was his first motorbus. The bus was built on a Saurer chassis with 18 seats and standing room for ten people and was powered by a strong four-cylinder engine with a performance of 22 kW/30 HP. The whole body was well in advance of its time: Contrary to what was usual at that time, the driver was already sitting in a closed driving cab – the very first of its kind in a German commercial vehicle.
The successful symbiosis between the traditional bus and coach manufacturer from Ulm and the innovative “automobile inventor-company” incessantly searching for the latest technology founded by Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach and Karl Benz is to be seen in a great number of vehicles. In Europe following World War I there was an increasing demand for mobility. A great number of vehicle manufacturers which are hardly remembered today and the emerging transport industry with its numerous medium-sized companies already relied at this time on the Mercedes-Benz chassis and Kässbohrer bus bodies. An outstanding example of the cooperation between the two bus pioneers were the streamlined coaches developed by Kässbohrer in 1935 for the German National Railway. They were built by Kässbohrer on a Daimler-Benz chassis. These coaches were designed for use on scheduled services on the new motorways. They were supposed to keep to an average speed of 100 km/h and reached a top speed of 130 km/h. To achieve this, Daimler-Benz fitted the chassis with a specially fast gear-changing transmission and high speed tyres. These coaches were also used for the newly-opened scheduled service Leipzig – Berlin.
In 1938, the largest coach in the world at that time was built by Kässbohrer and it was also the product of joint development. The four-axle coach was towed by a Mercedes-Benz articulated truck, model LZ 8000, a world innovation in the truck branch. The overall length of the vehicle was 18.7 m long and provided enough room for 170 passengers. From 1976 on, the cooperation became even closer. At that time, Kässbohrer launched his bus product range 200. With this product range, Setra customers – following the integration of the previous engine supplier Henschl from Kassel in the Daimler-Benz Group – could choose between Mercedes-Benz or MAN diesel engines. Very soon, the proportion of Mercedes-Benz engines used in Setra buses and coaches had grown to almost 90 percent and Kässbohrer was one of the largest single customers in the non-captive market for the well tried and tested drive systems from Mannheim. Nowadays, all Setra buses and coaches with a performance range from 210 to 370 kW are fitted with state-of-the-art low-pollution and extremely cost-effective Mercedes-Benz diesel engines with SCR technology from Mannheim.
It is typical of the more than 80 years of good business relations between the Stuttgart automotive group and the medium-sized automobile manufacturer that when Karl Kässbohrer Vehicle Manufacturers Ltd found itself in financial difficulties in the mid-nineties of the 20th century the former Mercedes-Benz AG offered the Ulm company a cooperation agreement. Mercedes-Benz AG made an offer for Kässbohrer’s bus and coach sector with a job guarantee till the end of 1998. The first steps were thus taken towards the EvoBus GmbH which was founded in 1995 as a 100-percent Daimler subsidiary to combine the bus and coach activities of Mercedes-Benz Omnibus and the Kässbohrer brand Setra. The ongoing existence of the old-established and renowned bus and coach brand Setra was ensured together with the best prospects for its future development, and what is more, right up to the present day its success has proved that the fathers of this industrial joint venture were right.