He is generally regarded as the one of the inventors (with contemporary Gottlieb Daimler) of the gasoline-powered automobile. He was the son of an engine driver. He went to school at the Karlsruhe grammar school and Karlsruhe Polytechnic. He founded his first company, supplying building materials, in 1871. He married Bertha Ringer in 1872 (then Berta Benz) and they had five children during their life together. Benz started Benz & Co. in 1883 in Mannheim to produce industrial engines. It was there that he invented and patented various two-stroke engines. He later heard of a man, Gottlieb Daimler, who was working on a four wheeled vehicle. Daimler inspired Karl and he started working on his own "motor carriage", with a four-stroke engine. Benz designed not only his engine (single-cylinder, water-cooled, 958cc, 0.75hp), but the whole three wheeled vehicle. On January 29, 1886, he was granted a patent on it (DRP 37435) and in July he introduced the first gasoline-powered automobile.
In 1903 Benz retired from Benz & Co., but he remained a member of the supervisory board until his death. The Benz and Daimler firms merged to form Daimler-Benz in 1926 -- the company's cars since then are called Mercedes-Benz.