Our origins

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Our origins

The name and origin of the Zeppelin Group reach back to the early 20th century, when Ferdinand Count Zeppelin broke through an historic barrier with the construction of his first airship. His invention transformed humankind’s dream of flight into reality, enabling people to forget the boundaries of their countries. In 1908 Count Zeppelin founded Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH – the airship construction company – in Friedrichshafen and gave the entire company to the newly-founded Zeppelin Foundation. This ownership structure exists to the present day.

The success of airship technology transcended far beyond the boundaries of Germany and Europe. Count Zeppelin’s original airship company was also the rootstock of other enterprises which are globally active today, among them Maybach-Motorenbau (now MTU and Tognum AG respectively), Dornier, and ZF Friedrichshafen AG, which like the Zeppelin Group is owned by the Zeppelin Foundation.

The accident of the airship “Hindenburg” in Lakehurst in 1937 and the outbreak of World War II brought the airship era to an abrupt end. After the war, the forced liquidation on January 1, 1947, by the Allied military government brought the definite end for airship construction. There would be no reprieve for another nine years; meanwhile, the breakup of the Zeppelin Group left our company without production or products. Yet the Zeppelin people remained true to their founder's legacy.  The vision, courage to innovate and the steadfast will to succeed would once again become the driving forces to make a new start possible.

Two new enterprises, Metallwerk Friedrichshafen GmbH and Fahrzeug Instandsetzung GmbH, Friedrichshafen, started with fresh ventures, including production of lightweight construction and silos for the chemical industry, vehicle maintenance and antenna systems for Germany’s emerging radio network. The roots for the Trading Division were laid down in 1954, when Zeppelin secured rights for selling and servicing Caterpillar construction machines and engines in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1961, the activities of the trading and industry sectors were merged into Zeppelin Metallwerke GmbH, which is the present ZEPPELIN GmbH. This far-reaching decision created the structures which are still in place to this day. Our company’s registered office is still in Friedrichshafen, and the headquarters have for 40 years been in Garching, near Munich.