From the Radio to the Car


Some 100 years ago, Preh GmbH from Germany was a pioneer in radio technology. Today, Preh convinces with its innovations in the area of "Automotive Electronics".

At first glance, they appear to be rather unspectacular. Smaller than a postage stamp. Nevertheless, drivers of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class have everything under control with them. This product, which is a world first, is called “Touch Control Buttons”. The two buttons integrated in the steering wheel respond to even the smallest sweeping motion of the thumb. And control the infotainment system in this way. Both hands can remain at the steering wheel at all times. The “Touch Control Buttons” were developed by the automotive supplier Preh from the Lower Franconia town of Bad Neustadt an der Saale. In close collaboration with Mercedes-Benz.

Touch Control Buttons - The thumb controls the infotainment system.

For this Preh was honored with the “Special Award” at the “Daimler Supplier Awards”. Preh CEO Christoph Hummel is very happy about it: “We take this award to be not only a commendation for our innovation power and quality but also an incentive for future projects.”

Daimler Supplier Awards: Christoph Hummel (right) with Thomas Weber, Board of Management Member of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

In the beginning was the Radio

It all started in 1919 at a local inn. However, the inn in the Lower Franconian town of Neustadt an der Saale didn’t prepare any bread with dripping or pound schnitzels for customers. The company’s founder Jakob Preh had changed the bowling alley and the ballroom into an area for the production of sockets and electrical switches. Accessory parts for the first radios followed in 1923. A year later, the inn-keeping inventors went on the market with their own radio unit, the two-tube receiver “Preh-Funk”. At the time, the company gave 200 employees their livelihood. A brief intermezzo as automobile supplier started in 1932 with the production of turn signals and back lights.


After World War II, the focus at Preh was on toys. Remote-controlled metal cars and dolls made of polystyrene. For a time, Preh was the third largest doll manufacturer in Germany. When Television found its way into our living rooms in the 1960s Preh saw new opportunities. It developed and produced potentiometers, tuning memory devices, and plug connectors.

Assembly of components for radio receivers in the 20s.

Subsequently, the company was completely reorganized at the end of the 1980s. Away from radio and TV electronics and into automotive technology. The first products included heating and climate control systems, control parts for the first on-board Computers, and potentiometric sensors for throttle control. The direct cooperation with Daimler AG began in 2005. Preh supplier mechatronic control elements for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. And multifunction switches for commercial vehicles.

Production of the touch control buttons.

Since 2011, Preh GmbH has belonged to the Chinese Joyson Group. Here, Preh represents the corporate units “Automotive Electronics” and “Automation”. At the end of 2015, Preh employed around 4,900 employees around the world. In addition to its headquarters in Bad Neustadt, it also operates in Portugal, Romania, China, Mexico, and the USA. With the April 2016 takeovers of TechniSat Automotive and the automation specialist EVANA, Preh is continuing on its growth course. As a result, the workforce of the Preh Group has grown to around 6,200.

In addition to Preh and Handtmann, we will be presenting other winners of the 2015 Daimler Supplier Award before the next award.

Jun 16, 2016
Rasmus Muttscheller