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Sell, install, repair – the history of Bosch Car Service

Bosch Car service with VW Beetle in the foreground

The motoring boom at the start of the 1920s changed life on the roads. While horse-drawn carriages gradually disappeared, motorized traffic in conurbations became increasingly dense. Cars not only caused a degree of road chaos, but they also had consequences of a very different kind.

Chauffeurs and self-drivers

At the time when automobiles were still the preserve of a few wealthy citizens, around 1900, they had chauffeurs and mechanics — who were generally able to fix their employer’s vehicle. Industrial production and falling prices during the 1920s expanded the circle of drivers and cars became affordable for the upper middle class.

But a lot of these “self-drivers” had very little idea how to install automotive accessories in their vehicles or replace faulty parts. So who could they call on for help? A specialist workshop.

Bosch Car Service motorbike workshop Berlin, 1930
Bosch Car Service motorbike workshop Berlin, 1930

Service during the motoring boom

Bosch Service mobile in Denmark, 1940
Bosch Service mobile in Denmark, 1940

As motoring really took off during the 1920s, Bosch spotted opportunities for generating more business with the sale and installation of its own products in contracted workshops. The strategy it adopted was to establish an extensive customer service — the Bosch Service. The first “Einbau- und Reparatur-Werkstätte der Robert Bosch AG” (Installation and Repair Workshop) was set up 95 years ago in the oldest garage in Hamburg, Max Eisenmann & Co.

Bosch had already opened sales offices prior to this, which also had “installation halls” where customers could have their freshly purchased parts fitted straight into their vehicles. But the sales offices in the major cities would not have sufficed to establish a service network. This is why Bosch embarked upon a different course with the “Bosch Service”.

The concept was fairly straightforward. Automobile and motorcycle workshops that could fulfill certain criteria with regard to their equipment, size, and customer base were allowed to use the name “Bosch Service”, were given testing and repair equipment, and were granted special conditions for the sale of Bosch spare parts. Customers then had somewhere nearby to go for advice or for servicing Bosch products — and that would replace any faulty parts.

From 20 to 2,750

Bosch Car Service Meinburk, Munich/Germany, 1964
Bosch Car Service Meinburk, Munich/Germany, 1964

The name “Bosch Service” (German original: “Bosch-Dienst”) and a specially-designed trademark — the “Bosch Service” lantern — were only registered five years later. By that time, there were already 20 Bosch Service centers in Germany, which had been “set up systematically at the most important traffic hubs”, as an internal report stated in 1926. The “Bosch” logo and Bosch ”armature within a circle” emblem both formed part of the Bosch Service trademark. It was clear to all which company the products were from.
Further service stations followed in Germany and abroad. When the first complete list of all workshops worldwide was drawn up in 1930, the organization had grown to encompass 2,750 Bosch Service centers in 78 countries. This quickly spread the name Bosch throughout the world, which also helped set up and expand its sales centers and offices abroad.

From Bosch Service to Bosch Car Service

In the years following the second world war, the number of Bosch Service centers continually increased. Mass motoring had taken hold in Europe, which made a denser network increasingly important. In 1962, there were around 3,800 Bosch Service centers worldwide. The 10,000th Bosch Service was opened in 1992 at “Peter Müller & Söhne”.

Since 1999, Bosch Service centers in all countries worldwide have been called “Bosch Car Service”. All together, they make up one of the world’s largest independent workshop networks with over 16,500 centers in more than 150 countries.

Bosch Car Service in Kyritz/Germany, 1992
Bosch Car Service in Kyritz/Germany, 1992

Did you know ...?

That... 50 million automobiles are serviced and repaired in the Bosch Car Service network each year?

That… around 90,000 people work in the Bosch Service network worldwide and they deal with one million customers each day either on the phone, when checking cars in, or handing them back?

Dietrich Kuhlgatz

Since 1998 I have been at Bosch. I am deputy head of the Historical Communications department, working as spokesperson and researcher. I am in charge of product history requests, take care of contacts to technology and transportation museums, and I am in charge of history-related topics in Asia Australia, and Africa.
Before joining Bosch, I studied in history and philosophy at Universities of Konstanz and Hamburg. After graduating, I was editor of a scientific journal and research associate at Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin.

Picture of Dietrich Kuhlgatz

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