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Adolph Saurer AG
Public company
Industry Automotive,
Fate Merged with Franz Brozincevic & Cie into Nutzfahrzeuggesellschaft Arbon & Wetzikon (NAW)
Successor Saurer AG
Founded 1903
Defunct 1982
Headquarters Arbon, Switzerland
Key people
Franz Saurer
Products Motor vehicles

Adolph Saurer AG based in Arbon, Switzerland was a manufacturer of trucks and buses under the Saurer and Berna (beginning in 1929) brand names, active between 1903 and 1982. Their vehicles were widely used across mainland Europe, particularly in the interwar period.


A Saurer Car-Alpin in 1930

In 1853 Franz Saurer (1806–1882) from Veringenstadt in Germany established an iron foundry for household goods near the Swiss town of Sankt Gallen. In 1863 he started a production of Jacquard sewing machines in Arbon, from 1869 together with his sons as company associates of F. Saurer & Söhne. In 1896 his eldest surviving son Adolph Saurer (1841–1920) took over the company, he and his son Hippolyt (1878–1936) developed the enterprise as a joint-stock company.

From 1896 Saurer also manufactured petrol engines and the next year Hippolyt Saurer initiated the production of a phaeton body automobile run by a one-cylinder opposed-piston engine. In 1902 a first four-cylinder T-head engine model with touring car and sedan chassis was built.

From 1903 onwards Saurer concentrated on the production of commercial vehicles which soon gained a good reputation. The company ran subsidiary companies in Austria (1906–1959, in the end taken over by Steyr-Daimler-Puch), France (1910–1956, taken over by Unic), the United Kingdom (1927–1931, taken over by Armstrong Whitworth), and in Germany (1915–1918, taken over by MAN). In Italy, the Officine Meccaniche (OM) manufacturer was for many years licensee of Saurer engines and other mechanical units, which they used in their own ranges of truck and buses. In Poland the state-owned Państwowe Zakłady Inżynieryjne produced license-built Saurer engines (powering, among others, the 7TP and 9TP tanks) and coach chassis used in the Zawrat bus.

In the United States, the Saurer Motor Truck Company, headed by C.P. Coleman, had the rights to manufacture and sell heavy trucks under the Saurer brand name at its plant in Plainfield, New Jersey (which commenced operations in November 1911). On September 23, 1911, the Saurer Motor Truck Company merged with the Mack Brothers Motor Car Company of Allentown, Pennsylvania, headed by J. M. Mack, to form the International Motor Truck Company (IMTC).[1] IMTC would continue to make and sell trucks using the Saurer name until 1918. In 1922 IMTC would become Mack Trucks, Inc.

Saurer trucks were developed along the years into four basic ranges:

  • A-type (1918)
  • B-type (1926)
  • C-type (1934)
  • D-type (1959)

It was the B-type that established Saurer's international reputation as builder of long-lasting trucks.

In 1929 Saurer acquired its Swiss rival, Motorwagenfabrik Berna AG of Olten, but the Berna name was allowed to continue, badging the very same Saurer models.

From 1932 on, trolleybuses were a very significant segment of Saurer production. Typically Saurer, or Berna, trolleybuses featured Brown, Boveri & Cie or Société Anonyme des Ateliers de Sécheron (SAAS) electric equipment and Carrosserie Hess bodies. Saurer trolleybuses operated in most of Central Europe countries, and still do it in several of them.

In World War 2 a restructured type BT 4500 and 5 BHw of Saurer trucks were used to gas people in the Nazi Chełmno extermination camp, Extermination vans were adapted when they went in for repair, to carry the optimum number of people who could be gassed in the time it took to drive them from Chelmno to the woods where they were disposed of in ovens. There was concern about the strain on the front axel if too many people were loaded to be gassed, but as piles of bodies were always closest to the doors there was no strain on the front axel.[2][3]

In 1951 Saurer and its Italian licensee, OM, reached an agreement by which Saurer would market in Switzerland OM's light and medium-weight trucks and buses, using Saurer-OM and Berna-OM badges. This was successful and lasted until Saurer closure.


Declining sales in the early 1980s saw the two leading Swiss truck makers, Saurer and FBW (Franz Brozincevic & Cie of Wetzikon, Switzerland), forming a joint organization called Nutzfahrzeuggesellschaft Arbon & Wetzikon, proceeding with motorbus and trolleybus production under the NAW brand, while the last Saurer-badged truck sold in the open market was delivered in 1983. Four years later, in 1987, a model 10DM supplied to the Swiss Army meant the very last Saurer truck produced in history.

In 1982 Daimler-Benz had acquired a major shareholding in NAW and soon took full control; and in a short time dropped Saurer, Berna and FBW brands, while using NAW premises to assemble heavy haulage versions of Mercedes-Benz trucks. Eventually NAW went into liquidation in early 2003.

The textile and automotive spin-offs[edit]

In 1995, Ernst Thomke, reputed Swiss Manager, took over the leadership of Saurer AG in Arbon as Chairman of the Board. To restructure this conglomerate, he had previously abandoned his position with its then major shareholder: BB Industrie Holding AG (22%). The previous major shareholder, Tito Tettamanti, of the conglomerate, founded in 1853, specialized in textile machinery and "propulsion technology", had acquired the main competitor in each field, Schlafhorst, with a large manufacturing capacity excess and Ghidela.

Thomke led actively Saurer AG until 1996, when he retired to the direction of the Board until 1999. In his years he promulgated transparency at all levels, flexible working hours, optimized the production and refined accounting systems. In 1996, the group Saurer AG went back into financial results showing profits. More than half of the revenues originating from Schlafhorst, upon its positive restructuring.

A Doflug D-3802A powered by a Saurer YS-2 aero-engine.


Saurer also produced the YS-2 and YS-3 aero-engines, closely related to the Hispano-Suiza 12Y series of engines designed and built in France, to power the Doflug D-3802 and Doflug D-3803 fighters.

Oerlikon Textile[edit]

Since 2007, the conglomerate Saurer AG, which meanwhile had reached a worldwide leading status in textile machinery,[citation needed] has been integrated into the Oerlikon Corporation (see: Oerlikon Textile)

Oerlikon-Saurer Textile is a manufacturer of systems for spinning, texturizing, twisting and embroidery.

Oerlikon-Saurer "Graziano Trasmissioni[edit]

Also since 2007, the remaining Saurer AG automative part, "Graziano Trasmissioni", a manufacturer of gear, gear groups and complete transmission systems for agricultural, earth moving and special vehicles as well as for four wheel drive passenger cars and luxury sport cars has also been integrated into the Oerlikon Corporation. (see: Oerlikon Drive Systems)

Gallery of Saurer, Berna and NAW vehicles[edit]

Saurer Buses[edit]

  • Saurer AD
  • Saurer L4C
  • Saurer S4C
  • Saurer 4H
  • Saurer 3DUK-50
  • Saurer Trolleybus 411LM
  • Saurer Trolleybus 415
  • Saurer Trolleybuss GT560/640-25

Saurer Military Vehicles[edit]

Saurer F006[edit]

Prototype from Monteverdi with the civil version, saurer manufactured 12 pre serial Military versions of them

The Saurer F006 (also known as Saurer 288) and F007 were, apart from the Swiss Army cross-country trucks and 6DM Saurer Saurer 10DM, the last vehicle designs of the company. In the late 1970s the F006 from Saurer Arbon was intended as a successor to the Jeep for the Swiss Army. In addition, the vehicle should also be made for fire departments as well as work vehicles of community structures, such as road maintenance operations, electricity and water utilities, forest rangers, etc. Selling to private users (like the Mercedes G) was not addressed, would have been likely, but Montiverdi had been on the Geneva Motor Show 1979 the public for the civilian version of its 260Z Military 230th Saurer F006 based on the Military. Of the 260Z they stayed on the three prototypes, which were listed in the Monteverdi Museum in Binningen.

Technology It is the Saurer F006 to an off-road passenger vehicle with four-wheel drive. The concept was adopted by the automaker Monteverdi, with Berna further engineered and improved. Saurer took over the production. The axles are from IHC Scout (Jeep I scout from International Harvester). The vehicle had a plastic body made of polyester. As drive a 6-cylinder petrol engine from Volvo served with an automatic transmission. Maximum speed was 100 km / h in contrast for Mercedes G and Puch 230GE the front turn signals were mounted conventionally on the front of the vehicle (and not on the hood). The equipment installed in the front bumper parking lights can be turned with essays on Tarnlicht. The basic vehicle has a fixed open back cab. the loading / passenger seats are closed with a fast mountable / demountable plastic sheet at the rear with the military embodiment is a holder for a gas canister; execution in the fire is a fixed structure provided.

Saurer in 1980 introduced the F006 and to 1982 it was tested by the War Technical Department of the Swiss Army which appreciated the off-road capability. However, the Puch 230GE was procured. Without the order of the army production was not economically viable, and only the 24 prototypes were built, one of which remained in service until 1988, and was subsequently donated to the Saurer oldtimer club; the remaining vehicles are privately owned.

Saurer F007 Simultaneously with the Saurer Saurer F006 F007 was introduced in 1980 as a Pinzgauer High-Mobility All-Terrain Vehicle similar vices to the public. The F007 uses the same chassis and the same drive unit as the F006, however, unlike the F006 is not the cab behind the engine, but the engine compartment attached (as with many vans). It is therefore called a cab. The vehicle has unlike the F006 has three wiper instead of two and four headlights instead of two, and front parking lights and turn signals are housed in the same headlamp shell. The filler neck is on the left side immediately behind the driver's door, and not as in the F006 on the right side between the rear and the rear wheel. The vehicle has a fixed cab which is open to the rear. The cargo area, passenger space is covered with a plastic sheet, including two plastic windows on each side. Again, this was based on the concept of the cab-over model 260 F by Monteverdi. For the Swiss Army from 1982 SUVs were prepared for testing. Here, too, the army appreciated the high-road tested prototypes, but bought no other vehicles. The existing Saurer F007S are now privately owned.

Sources & References[edit]

  1. ^ "Motor Truck Merger". The New York Times 23 September 1911. p.15. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
  2. ^ Nazi Gas Vans
  3. ^ Hidden camera interview: "Gustav Laabs and Letter Becker" (outtakes from Shoah, 1978-1981). Claude Lanzmann Shoah Collection, Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Mmemorial Museum, Washington, D.C. Retrieved 2014-12-05.

External links[edit]