The Man Who Brought BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche To America

The Man Who Brought BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche To America


The post-war baby boomer generation brought wealth and success to the United States of America and as such people wanted cars. They didn’t want the cheap and sad machines built in the wartime era they wanted the cars of the future and to one man Maximilian Hoffman he already had that planned this is the story of how he brought an European automotive hunger to America Max Edwin Hoffman emigrated to New York from Austria in 1941 to escape the war however he already had a precedent in the automotive world as he’d spent many years importing luxury American cars into Austria as well as convincing Volvo to sell their cars outside of Sweden for the very first time Hoffman realized that there was an opportunity in America to reverse engineer his previous success instead of bringing American cars to Europe he would bring the best of the best of European cars to the US after the war had ended he started two showrooms one in New York and one in LA and his first targets were the likes of Jaguar, Lancia, and Delahaye by the 50s though Max had used his ability to speak to the OEMs to lock in BMW and Mercedes to be their sole US distributors not only that but he also managed to get VW to give his company the first twenty Beetles to sell after struggling to shift them Hoffman cut ties with Volkswagen not long later stating that ‘they’d never take off’ and you think you’ve made some bad calls before however it did have one silver lining it brought about a link to Porsche in 1950 max met with Ferdinand Porsche at the Paris Motor Show consigning fifteen 356s to be imported to the US in the following two years he successfully raced two 356s in New York and Florida gaining the brand notoriety and respect in the US he went one step further in pushing Porsche to the world though as that same year he met for lunch in New York with Ferry Porsche the son of the founder he stated that Porsche needed an emblem of sorts something to represent the cars he was importing further than just a name after ferry took a napkin and sketched a potential design the Porsche crest was born fast forward to the mid-50s and Hoffman had a hand in the pocket of every high-end European manufacturer on the list however he didn’t just know what his customers would buy from him he knew what his customers wanted to buy from him he started speaking to the car manufacturers about what they should make in order to better succeed in the US market now you’d think that most manufacturers that laugh you out of the room when trying to tell them what cars to built but max was different at a board meeting in 1953 max suggested to Mercedes that they should build a road-going version of their W194 racing car aka the 300 SL with the board initially skeptical Max offered to order a thousand cars if they agreed naturally they did and what resulted was the 300sl Gullwing and 300 SL roadster that we all know today in addition he suggested a lower-cost version would do well too creating the 190 SL which he naturally also bought a thousand of in the same year Hoffman demanded that there should be a stripped-down cheaper version of the Porsche 356 the he could sell for under $3,000 Porsche responded with the America Roadster but it failed to meet the cheaper price point that Hoffman wanted he continued to pressure Porsche who in 1954 created the Speedster the immortal model in the day could be yours for two thousand nine hundred and ninety five dollars 1954 not only saw Hoffman convince BMW that they needed to build US targeted cars he managed to convince them to let his buddy Albrecht von Goertz design the cars – what resulted was the 503 and legendary 507 two cars that completely departed from BMW’s usual styling book and took many American styling cues onboard unfortunately Max’s $5,000 list price for the 507 couldn’t be met and at over double that there were a hard car to sell 1954 was a busy year for Max while on a trip to Italy he was having dinner with the managers of Alfa Romeo out of the blue he stated that he would order 600 standard Giuliettas and the he would buy 2,000 more provided that they chopped the roof off then they agreed and 2000 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders were born and sent to America in the mid-60s Hoffman decided to focus his attentions on BMW and sell off his other commitments his first order of business? Well to completely change BMW’s new model of course what would you expect him to do? the 1602 was a small two-door sedan powered by a 1.6 litre 84 horsepower 4-cylinder engine Hoffman told BMW that this wasn’t good enough for the American market and that the solution was to install the bigger 2-litre 201 horsepower engine from the larger BMW sedans he warned that if they didn’t listen they’d be in for a big disappointment naturally BMW agreed and the legendary 2002 came to be every single one of those cars all ideas of Hoffman he understood the market like no one else if you can think of a luxury European brand that has a presence in the U.S. Hoffman is likely the reason why they’re there Max Edwin Hoffman may have passed away in 1981 but his legacy lives on in many of our favorite cars today and for that we have to thank him

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