Bruno Sacco: the man who shaped the face of the brand
- Mercedes-Benz design under Bruno Sacco
- Recipient of numerous honors
- “A Mercedes-Benz will always look like a Mercedes-Benz.”
“Innovative technology becomes visible only when combined with equally innovative design.” So says Bruno Sacco, the man whose lasting impact on the design of Mercedes-Benz automobiles has been greater than any other’s – and the designer who put the face on Mercedes-Benz. He is a member of the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, and the European Automotive Hall of Fame in Geneva – one of the very few to hold both these distinctions. This makes the retired former Mercedes-Benz Head of Design a member of a select group of outstanding and deserving personalities from all over the world who have dedicated their lives to individual mobility.
Bruno Sacco was born in Udine, Italy, on 12 November 1933. After schooling in Tarvisio and Udine, he attended the Polytechnic University of Turin, where in the course of his studies he gained early experience in the field of body design with Ghia. Later he took on a number of smaller commissions from Ghia and Pininfarina. Bruno Sacco’s career with Daimler-Benz began in 1958.
As a stylist and designer, he worked on various projects under the supervision of Karl Wilfert, Friedrich Geiger and Béla Barényi, including the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100 series) and the 230 SL roadster (R 113). In addition, he was the project leader responsible for designing the safety exhibitions of the day and for the so-called “test laboratories on wheels” – the C 111-I and C 111-II experimental vehicles. In 1970 Sacco became Head of the Body Design and Dimensional Drawing Department at Daimler-Benz. Under his aegis, this period also gave rise to the ESF prototypes (Experimental Safety Vehicles) and the 123 series.
In 1975 and now bearing the title of Senior Engineer, Bruno Sacco took over as successor to Friedrich Geiger as Head of the Styling Department. From now on he would play a vital part in shaping the overall appearance of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. The key stages of this constant evolution of form were the record-breaking diesel-powered C 111-III (1978) and the S-Class from the 126 series (1979). In 1978 Sacco was appointed Head of the Styling Department.
In 1980 the Styling Department presented a number of guidelines for Mercedes-Benz design at the “German Designer Day.” Design was now considered one of the key elements in the mix that goes into making a successful car. As cars become increasingly difficult to differentiate in terms of their technical qualities, what makes the difference are their outstanding features and character strengths.
An excellent example from Sacco’s era is the Mercedes-Benz 190 (W 201), which successfully integrated into the compact class all the design values of Mercedes-Benz as well as the technical qualities. Sacco himself said that “leaving aside the S-Class, the 190 was the perfect example of how to combine innovation and tradition. The 190 was the vehicle which convinced many people that Mercedes-Benz was able to adapt to changing circumstances.” At the same time, the W 201 was the first step towards dividing the brand up into different segments, an approach that was to become a systematic model offensive in the 1990s. This can be seen, for example, in the variants from the 124 series, which is also a landmark in Mercedes-Benz design. But similarly the A-Class (168 series), the CLK series (208 series) and the M-Class (163 series) stand for brand successes. In addition, strong design highlights were set with various research vehicles.
In 1987 the Board of Management appointed Bruno Sacco Director of the Design Department, and in 1993 as Head of Design he became a member of the company’s Board of Directors. In this capacity Bruno Sacco also assumed a mandated role for the design of products for the Commercial Vehicle Division. In March 1999, after 41 years service with Mercedes-Benz design, Bruno Sacco handed over leadership of the department to Peter Pfeiffer.
During the years he worked at Daimler-Benz Bruno Sacco received numerous personal awards, including: honorary membership of the Academia Mexicana de Diseño, 1985; the title Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana in 1991; winner of the Cover Award – Auto & Design, Turin in 1993; the Premio Mexico 1994 – Patronato Nacional de las Asociaciones de Diseño AC, Mexico; winner of the Apulia Award for Professional Achievement in 1994; Best Designer and Designers’ Designer by Car magazine in 1996; winner of the Lifetime Design Achievement Award, Detroit, and the Raymond Loewy Designer Award presented by the Lucky Strike brand in 1997; and an honorary doctorate from Udine University, Italy, in 2002. In 2006 he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, Dearborn, and in 2007 into the European Automotive Hall of Fame, Geneva.