How everything began
1909 – In terms of technology, the electric starter supersedes the crank handle; the independent suspension ensures improved driving comfort and the developmental change from horse-drawn vehicles to the motor car is almost within reach. At this point in time, at 5,000 Reichsmarks, an average small car costs five times the annual salary of a worker. In this early phase of the automotive industry, Bernhard Pierburg and Karl Schmidt also step up to have their part in the economic upswing of the period.
In Berlin, Bernhard Pierburg founds a steel trading company which supplies the automotive industry. Karl Schmidt, who has experience with cars, initially turns his attention to furnace construction; with his aluminium products, he soon also gains vehicle manufacturers as customers. This connection to the car is no surprise: Karl Schmidt's father, Christian Schmidt, is the co-founder of the Neckarsulmer Strickmaschinen Fabrik, later NSU Motorenwerke. As early as 1906, Karl Schmidt has developed the first "Original Neckarsulmer motor car" in his father's company. In 1906, he wins the Silver Plaque in the 1800-km long Prinz-Heinrich-Fahrt (Prince Heinrich Tour) for driving without any penalty points.
The beginnings of Pierburg
Contact is soon established between Pierburg and Arthur Haendler GmbH via the associated local bank, which was known as Danat-Bank at the time. Arthur Haendler GmbH has a licence from the French company Société Anonyme Solex, formerly Goudard & Mennesson, for the production and distribution of carburettors for petrol engines. In 1925, Bernhard Pierburg – now an honorary doctor of the Technische Universität Berlin – takes over the majority share in Haendler and thus sets the course for the continued business operations of Pierburg AG.
The negotiations for the transfer of the licence agreement require much skill from Bernhard Pierburg, and also the consent to have his son Alfred trained at Solex in Paris. But it is precisely this personal contact which really brings the deal to life, and forms a solid basis for an important business area which will soon grow steadily and establish the reputation of Pierburg as an innovative automotive supplier.
The beginnings of Kolbenschmidt
Entrepreneurial spirit and innovation are entwined throughout the history of the Neckarsulm-based Schmidt family. From 1880 Christian Schmidt drives on the knitting machine factory, which was founded in 1873 in Riedlingen an der Donau, and which later makes a name for itself as a manufacturer of motor bicycles and cars. Son Karl also catches the technology bug. Following training at the mechanical engineering school in Stuttgart and practical phases at Wilhelm Maybach and in the design office of Sir Herbert Auston, he returns home and in 1910 founds the "Deutsche Ölfeuerungswerke Karl Schmidt" (Karl Schmidt German Oil Firing Works). In 1917 Schmidt purchases a 50,000 square metre site directly next to NSU and sets up a new works; here he uses his patented ovens to melt scrap metal, particularly aluminium, which is still not very common.
The personal and spatial proximity to the automotive industry soon means that the first light metal components for NSU find their way into the production range. The substitution of ferrous materials with aluminium is not always easy, however. Even though aluminium pistons are very popular in racing due to their low weight, they are initially not granted approval for road traffic due to "a lack of operational safety". It is only following intensive metallurgical testing and the composition of special alloys by Karl Schmidt that aluminium is recognised officially as a piston material in 1921.
The future business operations of Kolbenschmidt are thereby founded.
1910 Founding of the "Deutsche Ölfeuerungswerke Karl Schmidt" in Heilbronn.
1917 Move to Neckarsulm, directly next to NSU.
1920 Start of piston production.
1923 Change of Gebr. Pierburg oHG to a stock company.
1925 Pierburg AG purchases the licence for the Solex carburettors.