This February is the 75th anniversary of the introduction of the first series of Mercedes diesel-fueled passenger cars. Called the 260 D, production began at the end of 1935 just before the car was officially unveiled to the public at the 1936 International Motorcycle and Automobile Exhibition in Berlin, Germany. At the time, those who had a chauffer's license were allowed to buy diesel fuel in Germany for less than half the price of regular unleaded gasoline.
As a result, many taxi driver soon began to switch over to the 260 D and Mercedes soon began to offer a six-seat Pullman sedan specifically for the taxi market. The 2.6-liter OM four-cylinder engine had a Mercedes-Benz pre-chamber system and a Bosch injection pump that produced 45 hp at 3,000 rpm. Fuel consumption was around 26 mpg. For comparison, the gasoline model returned just 18 mpg. In fact, the 26 mpg diesel returned a better fuel economy than some cars still being built today (the Cadillac Escalade ESV comes to mind).
Not surprisingly, Mercedes-Benz now builds some of the best diesels on the market and still believes in their "great future potential" in both fuel economy and performance.