Ueberherrn, Germany - Licencing the name from Swedish rally ace Ingvar Carlsson, Rolf Hartge and his younger brother Andreas founded Carlsson back in 1989 to tune Mercedes. Over the years the two brothers built Carlsson into an internationally renowned Mercedes tuner, and then sold the business at its hiatus in 2007.
Most people thought that Rolf would then use his vast knowledge of the automotive industry as a consultant, to keep himself connected. But after initially enjoying his well-earned retirement, Rolf’s passion for cars and motorsport got the better of him. With many ideas continuing to bubble away in his fertile mind he was simply unable to stay away from what was ostensibly his hobby.
In 2016 he and his son, Hendrik put together a small team of experienced specialists to stage a comeback to the tuning business, this time with his own name above the door.
Say ‘tuning’ and any red-blooded car enthusiast will instantly think of engine upgrades, spoilers, big wheels and a lower ride height. Now however, the latest brainchild of Rolf Hartge adds a new facet to the wonderful world of tuning.
Trademarked as Rolfhartge GmbH the new company left the starting blocks an authorised partner of Daimler AG and also recognised as a vehicle manufacturer by the Kraftfahrt Bundesamt (KBA), Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority.
The KBA certification means the company is allowed to apply their own chassis and engine numbers to the Mercedes and Mercedes-Maybach models on which their offerings are based. It also means that their partners around the world can apply for manufacturer import status.
With 40 years of automotive industry experience behind him Rolf Hartge has a long track record of ground-breaking innovations. The latent heat storage system that he introduced back in 1993 helps to reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and engine wear is now standard in most modern cars.
The C-TRONIC ECO-BOX, an in-house-developed electronic map-driven auxiliary control unit that he developed during the Carlsson years potentially reduces the fuel consumption of diesel vehicles by up to 20%. This made its debut long before competitors began selling so-called “Eco-Tuning” devices that improve efficiency through increased torque.
In the months before he sold Carlsson, Rolf Hartge entered into co-operation with the renowned fashion label Etienne Aigner to create bespoke V12 S-Class and CL-based models. These limited-edition cars were truly haute couture on wheels.
With past projects like this under his belt Rolf’s developing perspective of looking at the car as an extension of a client’s lifestyle rather than just transport found his subsequent ideas evolving along the path that led to his latest venture.
“A life without individuality is a life wasted” he says. “Individuality is just as much an end in itself as luxury, and our goal now is to create luxury products with innovative features tailored to the needs of real people.”
“Simply going back to what we did at Carlsson or duplicating what is already on offer in the marketplace was not an option,” Rolf explained. “Right from the start Hendrik and I agreed that our new business should radically reinterpret the concept of luxury vehicle personalisation, supplementing the traditional meaning of tuning with totally fresh ideas centred around the occupants.”
“While it is true that learning to drive a high-performance car well and safely is the best ‘tuning’ accessory for the owners of such cars, I have always believed that the driver and passengers of a luxury car where the emphasis is on comfort and relaxation will enjoy their journeys more if they are in peak mental and physical health,” Rolf explained.
“Health and well-being are the cornerstones of our new mission that focuses on smart innovations in design and a feel-good atmosphere in the cabin. Couple this with subtle upgrades that enhance the appearance and comfort of the vehicle and Smart Innovations meets Luxury to create our Smart Luxury concept.”
A unique offering that adds customer value over and above the pure driving experience, these Rolfhartge upgrades featured on the Rolfhartge MR500 test car, based on a Mercedes-Maybach limousine, in this case the bi-turbo V6 version that is popular in China for tax reasons.
The exterior styling changes are very subtle compared to traditional body styling kits. Starting at the nose, angled slats for the front bumper air intakes give the car a distinctive frontal identity. At the rear the changes are much more discrete and are limited to small vertical strakes under the valance.
Ride quality and handling always benefit from lower unsprung weight, and here the 21-inch diameter Rolfhartge alloy wheels are made with a flow-forming process to optimise their strength-to weight ratio. Shod with Pirelli PZero tyres, each Rolfhartge wheel/tyre combination weighs around 3.0 kg less than the comparable factory items.
In engineering terms the resulting 12.0 kg reduction in rotating unsprung mass corresponds to an approximate 70.0 kg reduction in total vehicle weight, with driving dynamics benefiting from the improved ability of the tyres to maintain full contact with the tarmac under hard acceleration, braking and cornering. Apart from enhanced primary safety the reduced inclination of the wheels to patter over bumps also reduces tyre induced road noise, another plus point in the occupant comfort stakes.
However, the really ground-breaking changes lie in the car’s interior, which for many people is their third living space alongside home and office. The cabin of an S-Class or Mercedes-Maybach is already crafted from the highest-quality leather, Alcantara and fine wood, and customers can leave this as is or have the Rolfhartge team individualise it even more.
The real added value of the new Rolfhartge tuning philosophy is embodied in the innovative technologies installed in the cabin where a three-pronged attack on harmful elements is waged. The air purification system, liquid-glass coating to reduce the harmful bacteria count, and PSS Magnetic Field Therapy for rear seat passengers are all designed to leave occupants healthier and in a better state of well-being.
According to official figures from WHO (World Health Organisation), around seven million people worldwide die from air pollution each year. To put this in perspective that means five times more people die from breathing polluted air than are killed in road accidents (1.35 million). A similar ratio applies in Germany.
The driver is one of the most exposed to nitric oxide, with the harmful ratio present at intersections or in tunnels often ten times greater than the permitted limit of 40 micrograms / 1 m3 of air.
To counter this, the Rolfhartge air filter system uses environmentally friendly photo catalysis to kill harmful microorganisms, germs, odours, vapours, and capture solvent evaporation from interior plastics. In combination with the titanium dioxide-coated interior surface of the housing, a UV light tube is used to reduce nitric oxide emissions, a recognised air pollutant.
Weighing 1,200 grams this near silent portable device is simply attached to a rear headrest and fed from any 12-volt power outlet in the cabin. It is particularly suitable for allergy sufferers, asthmatics and people with MSC (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) syndrome. The optional AC/DC power supply allows this portable Air Purifier Car to also be used in small rooms at home, in the office, or in a hotel.
The interior of a vehicle is a breeding ground for pathogens invisible to the naked eye, with a particularly high concentration of germs found on steering wheels, gearshift knobs, seats, other controls and the floor mats.
The innovative Nanopool (NP®) liquid glass technology that forms an ultra-thin, dirt and water-repellent surface layer reduces the ability of bacteria and germs to adhere to surfaces. With no toxic substances in their composition NP® products are skin and mucous membrane friendly and the look and feel of the treated material remains unchanged.
As dirt particles and debris cannot easily settle on a car interior treated with NP® technology even white leather becomes a practical interior trim colour choice. Any stains are easily removed with warm water, and the coating is resistant to residual colour transfer from textiles, and even abrasion from jeans.
Specific health issues are caused by the natural magnetic fields in the body going out of balance. Traditional Chinese doctors used the healing power of magnetic stones to good effect many hundreds of years ago, but without totally understanding how they worked.
Today the effect is understood and many top athletes around the world rely on this natural treatment to enhance their performance before a competition, and to help them regenerate afterwards.
The PSS Magnetic Field Therapy machine that Rolfhartge builds into the rear seat stimulates these fields and helps them return to normal. Another first in an automobile application, this smartphone App controlled magnetic field system encourages dilation of the occupants veins, “increasing blood circulation speed by up to 2.5 times”, says Rolf Hartge, quoting the Institute for Microcirculation Berlin.
Increased blood circulation leads to a better supply of nutrients and oxygen to the body’s organs and enhanced purification of the blood cells. The result is improved regeneration and increased wellbeing.
The implementation of these technologies in this unique approach to ‘tuning’ makes Rolfhartge the world’s first aftermarket tuner to place health at the heart of its customer mission.
This approach is especially appreciated by clients in China, which has a long tradition of health enhancing practices such as magnetic therapy and acupuncture. Unsurprisingly, Rolfhartge made its debut in the Middle Kingdom first and is now negotiating with potential partners in Europe and elsewhere.
Based on a Mercedes-Maybach, the Rolfhartge MR500 was officially unveiled in China at the CSITF (China Shanghai International Technology Fair) in April 2019.
Standing out from the high horsepower and “Bling, Bling” normally associated with aftermarket tuning the innovative Rolfhartge Smart Luxury concept clearly impressed the judges who were looking for fresh ideas amongst the 900 national and international exhibitors. Rolfhartge thus came away with awards for “One of the ten Most Popular Projects” and “The Best of 2019 Among Ten Most Popular Projects”.
Good health is the greatest wealth of all, and tailoring our moving living space around personal wellbeing is an important step towards this. Given his history of innovative thinking it is no surprise that Rolf Hartge is once again at the vanguard of a new age of tuning.