The founding years
Young Max Brose, whose parents run a carbody company in Wuppertal, is witness to how motorization is squeezing out coaches and carriages at a breathtaking speed. Convinced of the future viability of the automobile, the young salesman, at the age of 24, opens up a trading company for automobile accessories in Berlin in 1908, which he runs until the First World War.
Together with his partner, Ernst Jühling, who he meets by chance at the end of the war, he will found the Metallwerk Max Brose & Co. in 1919, expanding his entrepreneurial activities to include the production of automobile components as well.
Max Brose’s main company catalogue grows from year to year, comprising a good 149 pages in 1914/1915. Besides automobile accessories, the product range also includes motorcycle and motorboat equipment. Not long afterwards, the company also begins selling sparkplugs, headlights and tools using its own trade names of “Atlas” and “Mabro”.
Extensive product range
A broad spectrum of accessories is on offer for the modern motorist in the twenties: It includes windshields, horns, mirrors, speedometers, canisters and shock absorbers as well as “all types of clothing”. There is even a “leather mask with head and neck bands” for "four-legged" passengers.
Laying the foundation stone
After the First World War Max Brose decided to produce automotive parts inhouse. In June 1919 he founded in Coburg (Upper Franconia) the Metallwerk Max Brose & Co. together with the chemist Ernst Jühling, whom he had met in World War I.
This lays the cornerstone for a company that would later evolve into the market leader in mechatronic systems for the automotive industry.
Max Brose and Ernst Jühling have hardly set up their own car component manufacturing facilities in Coburg, when Germany is engulfed by a major political and economic crisis and stands poised on the brink of collapse. But the tide turns yet again: at the end of 1924, the Coburg supplier can show what it has to offer at the Berlin Motor Show.
Four years later, the Metallwerk Max Brose & Co., located at booth 164a in the Old Hall 1, presents, for the first time, a windowcrank apparatus for automobiles, whose hallmarks include “its simple design and safe mode of operation.”
The cornerstone to success
In 1926, Max Brose patents the “crank drive for lowerable windows”. Two years later, series production starts in Coburg, marking the beginning of a success story of a product that today no car is complete without.
A "wrap spring brake" is the key innovative feature of the Brose crank drive, which is brought to the market in the 1930s: by placing a small round spring in a steel housing, it is possible to move a gear segment with a lever using a crank and to hold the secured side door window in any position.
Max Brose and the National Socialist era
The owner families commissioned historian Prof. Dr. Gregor Schöllgen to examine the history of the family-owned company and the political stance of company founder Max Brose during the Nazi era, and published the results.
Max Brose moved from Berlin to Coburg with his family in 1918. The family observed the early rise of National Socialism in their hometown with horror.
Unreliable party member
As the most prominent businessman in Coburg, Brose was pressured by NSDAP Mayor Franz Schwede to join the NSDAP and the National Socialist Motor Corps in 1933. Distancing himself or opposing the party would have had serious consequences for Max Brose himself, his company and his employees.
However, Max Brose was not a reliable party member from the National Socialists’ point of view. In fact, the party set its spies on him due to doubts about his loyalty, stating: “A certain degree of caution is advisable.”
President with critical distance
In May 1933, Max Brose was elected to the committee of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) in Coburg, and appointed president in 1934. On taking up this honorary position, he wanted to protect the chamber – as well as Coburg businesses – from the influence of radical National Socialists. According to Horst Schoenau, the President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce for South Thuringia at that time, Max Brose repeatedly criticized the National Socialist party. During his time in office, he publicly expressed his “horror at the atrocities committed against the Jews.”
His subsequent appointment to the position of “Wehrwirtschaftsführer” (Defense Economy Executive) by the Defense Economy and Armament Office was not a reflection of his ideological proximity: all the Bavarian IHK presidents bore this title. Because of his critical stance, Max Brose was not accepted to the “Gauwirtschaftskammer,” the District Chamber of Commerce, which was founded as a replacement for the IHK in 1943.
The first mass product
1936 sees the production start of the 20-liter standard canisters. The production method stands for a largely automated manufacturing and testing process that is cutting-edge at the time, guaranteeing an unprecedented durability for the container and its paint finish. To persuade customers of the product’s superiority, the canister is filled with water and dropped from the second floor of the factory onto the paved yard below. The demonstration has the intended effect – the canister is one of the most renowned products of the Metallwerk Max Brose & Co. for more than twenty years.
Entrepreneur with social responsibility
Brose and his partner Jühling ran the Metallwerk with a clear sense of social responsibility. In 1938, a support fund was established for employees and wages were increased, even when it was prohibited during the war.
Max Brose personally advocated for employees who were politically persecuted. He rejected violence, whether it was against apprentices or foreign workers who were assigned there by government agencies.
State-directed economic system
Metalworking companies, including Metallwerk Max Brose & Co., were obligated to produce armaments during the Second World War. Large portions of the workforce were drafted into military service. Virtually all industrial companies were allocated forced laborers by government agencies to secure the production of armaments. Up to 260 prisoners of war and forced laborers worked at the Metallwerk Max Brose & Co. between 1940 and 1945.
According to contemporary witnesses, they were treated better than the average. Max Brose personally intervened against abuse, issuing warnings to the guilty parties and condemning their actions in public notices: “Violence is despicable and prohibited.” In 2000, Brose made a financial donation to the “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” foundation. The foundation has paid compensation to victims of forced labor during the Nazi era on behalf of the German economy.
Without ideological proximity to National Socialism
After the war ended, Max Brose's conduct in the Third Reich was thoroughly investigated in three hearings before the denazification courts in Coburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg. Ultimately, Brose was judged to be a “passive follower” – carrying the least possible level. In all three instances, it was repeatedly stated: Max Brose was not a “Nazi activist”. Wherever possible, he protectively shielded those who were persecuted for their political beliefs or race.
Max Brose remains the esteemed founder of the Brose company tradition, which was first maintained by the founding families, as it is today. Max Brose shielded his company and his employees in the Nazi stronghold of Coburg. To this day, this dark chapter in Coburg’s history has not been fully processed. Max Brose's stance during this criminal dictatorship deserves a fair and objective evaluation.
Penetrating new business segments
In the fifties, Max Brose ventures into a completely new business segment: a typewriter called “Brosette” is designed, launched and widely distributed in Germany and abroad. In 1959, Max Brose sells the production equipment to India, allowing him to focus on his core business in the years to come and to benefit from the growth in the rising German automotive industry.
The economic miracle
After the Second World War, Max Brose resumes management of the Metallwerk in the autumn of 1948. Just in time, as the currency reform heralds a rapid economic upsurge in Germany. At the beginning of the fifties, there are already more than one million cars registered in the Federal Republic. When the millionth Volkswagen rolls off the line in August 1954, one thing is clear: the future belongs to the automobile. Besides the legendary “Beetle”, the Metallwerk Max Brose & Co. also equips car lines from the brands Auto-Union, Borgward, Mercedes, Ford, Goliath, Opel, MAN and Tempo with window regulators.
Largest manufacturing company in Coburg
After the war, the Metallwerk Max Brose & Co. with approx. 550 employees is the largest manufacturing company in Coburg. Apart from window regulators for cars, trucks and omnibuses, its product range also includes crank handles, ventilation hatches, tilting window hinges, sliding window latches, sun visors, defrostable windows and canisters.
Max Brose and Ernst Jühling modernize and invest in expanding production capacities – this turns out to be a clever move which soon pays off.
Ahead of the market
In the sixties, the German automotive industry is again on the upswing; in line with the American trend, the demand for more comfort and safety is also growing in Europe. In 1959, Brose presents to automotive experts the “electrically driven window regulator” available as an upgrade. In 1963, the company begins series production of the power window regulator for the European market.
The BMW Coupé 3200 CS is the first vehicle to be equipped with this product.
Tailor-made seat technology
At the beginning of the sixties, Max Brose focuses on another future-oriented business segment: seat adjuster technology. In 1968, Brose starts producing seat recliners for adjusting backrests.
First customers include BMW and Mercedes. Within a few years, this new business segment will develop into the company’s second mainstay.
Foundation for world-class company
When Max Brose passed away at the age of 84 in 1968, the business that he spent 60 years building up had around 1,000 employees and sales of around DM 35 million.
Only under the leadership of his grandson, Michael Stoschek, starting in 1971, did the company rise to international acclaim. Thirty-four years later, when Michael Stoschek handed over the position of CEO to a non-family member in 2005, Brose boasted sales of EUR 2.2 billion and employed around 8,900 people at 37 locations in 19 countries.