Research and development

Research and development as key success factors

Research and development have always played a key role at Daimler. Our researchers anticipate trends, customer wishes and the requirements of the mobility of the future, and our development engineers systematically implement these ideas in products that are ready for series production. 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 2015, Daimler employed 23,300 men and women at its research and development units (2014: 21,700). A total of 15,500 of those employees (2014: 14,000) worked at Group Research & Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, 5,500 (2014: 5,500) at Daimler Trucks, 1,100 (2014: 1,000) at Mercedes-Benz Vans and 1,200 (2014: 1,100) at Daimler Buses. Around 5,100 researchers and development engineers (2014: 4,600) worked outside Germany.

Our international research and development network

Our global research and development network comprises 23 locations in eleven countries. Our biggest facilities are in Sindelfingen and Stuttgart-Untertürkheim in Germany. A new facility for an ultramodern testing and technology center is now under construction in Immendingen. We started test operations there in October 2015. We are investing approximately €200 million in Immendingen, where 300 new jobs will be created. Approximately 200 people are currently employed in Sunnyvale, California, the headquarters of our research facilities in North America. Other important research locations in North America are Long Beach and Carlsbad, California; Portland, Oregon; and Redford, Michigan. Our most important locations in Asia are our facilities in Bangalore and Pune, India; the Global Hybrid Center in Kawasaki, Japan; and our research and development center in Beijing. With its nearly 2,900 employees, Mercedes-Benz Research and Development India (MBRDI, with headquarters in Bangalore) is Daimler’s largest research and development center outside Germany. In November 2014, Daimler Greater China Ltd. opened a new research and development center in China, thereby expanding the existing R&D network in Beijing. The Advanced Design Studio is the most important component of the new center and also serves as the Group’s design hub in Asia. At the end of 2015, approximately 500 highly qualified engineers and designers were employed at the Mercedes-Benz research and development center in Beijing. Back in 2013, our van joint venture in China, Fujian Benz Automotive Corporation, opened a new product development center in Fuzhou. This facility, which is the first Mercedes-Benz Vans product development center outside Germany, has a design and calculation department, proving grounds, test labs and component and complete-vehicle test rigs.

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 up-and-coming scientists.

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 indispensable for our efforts to develop and offer new concepts for future mobility. As part of our joint research and development work, we ensure that the Group maintains the key technological expertise it needs in order to keep our brands distinct and to safeguard the future of the automobile in general.

Intellectual property rights secure our leadership in technology and innovation

We invented the automobile: On January 29, 1886, Carl Benz registered a patent for a “vehicle powered by a gas engine.” In the 130 years since then, we have refined automobiles with more than 100,000 patents and set standards that point the way toward emission-free, accident-free and autonomous driving. We continued this tradition in 2015 by registering a total of approximately 2,000 new ideas for patents as in the previous year. These patents are important to the company for two reasons. First of all, they enable exclusivity — i.e. the use of such innovations solely in our products. Secondly, the patents secure Daimler a certain amount of “freedom of action” — i.e. they prevent restrictive third-party patents from limiting Daimler’s scope of operations. In addition to industrial property rights, which safeguard our innovations for future mobility over the long term, the unique visual aspects of our products are protected with over 9,000 designs registered in 2015 (2014: 6,400). The significant increase is primarily due to the expansion of our product portfolio, but is also the result of a metho­d change in registration. Furthermore, with a portfolio of more than 31,300 trademarks worldwide (2014: 32,900), we protect the renowned and valuable Mercedes-Benz brand, the three-pointed star and all of our other product brands in each relevant market. The decrease is mainly due to portfolio rationalization.

€6.6 billion for research and development

We want to continue shaping mobility through our pioneering innovations in the coming years while moving ahead with digitization throughout the entire Group. We therefore increased our very high level of investment in research and development of €5.7 billion in 2014 to €6.6 billion in 2015. Of that amount, €1.8 billion (2014: €1.1 billion ) was capitalized as development costs, which amounts to a capitalization rate of 27 % (2014: 20 %). The amortization of capitalized research and development expenditure totaled €1.2 billion during the year under review (2014: €1.2 billion). With a rate of 4.4 % (2014: 4.4 %), research and development expenditure also remained at a high level in comparison with revenue. Research in the reporting year focused on new vehicle models, extremely fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly drive systems, new safety technologies, autonomous driving systems and the digital networking of our products.

The most important development projects at Mercedes-Benz Cars were the new models of the E-Class, the new SUVs and the new generation of compact cars. In addition, we continually invest in new low-emission engines, alternative drive systems and innovative safety technologies. Mercedes-Benz Cars spent a total of €4.7 billion on research and development in 2015, which once again marked a significant increase from the prior year’s figure ( €4.0 billion). Daimler Trucks invested €1.3 billion in research and development projects (2014: €1.2 billion). The focus there was on new medium-duty and heavy-duty engines as well as on the successor generations of existing products. R & D expenditure at Mercedes-Benz Vans focused mainly on ongoing product enhancement measures, the new Sprinter generation and the development of a new mid-size pickup. Daimler Buses primarily focused its development activities on new products, the fulfillment of new emissions standards and the creation of alternative drive systems. (See graphic B.38 and table B.39)

B.38 Research and development expenditure

B.39 Research and development expenditure by division

  2015 2014 15/14
In millions of euros     % change
Daimler Group 6,564 5,680 +16
there of capitalized 1,804 1,148 +57
Mercedes-Benz Cars 4,711 4,025 +17
there of capitalized 1,612 1,035 +56
Daimler Trucks 1,293 1,188 +9
there of capitalized 26 34 -24
Mercedes-Benz Vans 384 293 +31
there of capitalized 153 68 +125
Daimler Buses 184 182 +1
there of capitalized 13 11 +18
Innovation and safety
Sustainability at Daimler