it pains to see what has become of this proud tool brand. It must also pain the employees of the German Winnenden plant, especially since they have been the plaything of investors several times over now. TechTronics Industries from Hong Kong, the present owner of AEG (also of Milwaukee and Ridgid), has placed the brand in the DIY-part of its total portfolio, which is indeed a letdown. The orange finish has to do with the similar finish of Ridgid tools in the USA, where several AEG tools are sold with Ridgid decals stuck onto them. This single colour for both brands simply saves cash.
Which is all a pity, since AEG started out as quite the opposite. The founder is engineer Emil Rathenau from Munich, who bought several Edison patents for production purposes in Germany, like the patent of the filament lamp. He acquired those patents in 1893 and started his firm in Berlin as the "Deutsche Edison Gesellschaft für angewandte Elektrïzität" (German Edison Company for the application of electricity), D.E.G. in short. Several production facilities were erected, which as a whole received a new name in 1897: "Allgemeine Elektrizitäts Gesellschaft" (which, whether by accident or with some unknown purpose, would translate into English as "General Electric Company", just like Edison's own production firm in the USA).
The firm also applied several Tesla patents, like three-phase technology. Through the newly hired engineer Dolivo-Dobrolowsky, AEG made Europe's first truly efficient three phase induction motor and was the first to succesfully transport three-phase AC over long distances. AEG soon incorporated its own transformer and electric motor and power plant turbine factories, its own copper and insulation materials and cable works and its own workshops for assembly of fine mechanical parts, like relays, connection boxes, operating switchboards, etc. Since AEG made its own electric motors and related parts, and soon had a huge knowledge and expertise base, it also started manufacturing practical products like electric tools and household appliances. Famous are the very robust high frequency AC industrial drills and grinders (there was also cooperation with Fein from Stuttgart on that account) and patented appliances like the "föhn" (electric hairdryer, named after a southern warm airstream in the Alps region).
The tool factory was first situated in Berlin and with the Stuttgart region quickly becoming Germany's technological "Silicon Valley" (Esslingen/Festo, Stuttgart/Porsche and Fein, Nürtingen/Metabo and Neidlingen/Reich are all in this region), AEG also established a dedicated tool factory there, in Winnenden.
AEG is something like the German equivalent of GE in the USA or Hitachi in Japan. All of them are large firms with several daughter firms. All of them have connections with their own metal foundry partners (for AEG it was Krupp) and other resource manufacturers. The Winnenden tool division within AEG is like Hitachi's tool daughter firm Koki. And like Hitachi being capable of making its own electronics (camera's, silicon chips, memory modules, tv screens, hard disc drives), AEG incorporated Telefunken to serve similar purposes. Telefunken systems were part of the first German radio and television broadcasts (live tv coverage of 1936 Olympics in Germany) and were later also responsible for the development of electronics in AEG power tools. Siemens was a staunch rival, but many strategic technology was ordered from AEG, like U-boat electric motors, transformers for power grids, electric locomotives, large industrial plant drives, steam turbine/generator sets, mine shaft elevators, pumping stations, etc. The AEG typeface used to consist of scrolled woven letters, but was redesigned by AEG inhouse industrial designer Peter Behrends in 1908. It is such a strong and recognisable typeface that is has lost none of its strength till today. Although the firm AEG as a whole was officially terminated in 1996, the brand name came up for grabs and was continued to be used for many products, to keep squeezing gain from the once proud and high quality reputation of the brand. Hence many AEG labeled products are made in China now, but still carry the old typeface. Several plants like the original Winnenden plant are still active today and still make decent products, as long as they are based on the old designs and bear the imprint "Made in Germany".
The first AEG power tools were from bare cast alloy and were later painted black, grey and bluish grey, like the colours of their industrial electric motor line. After the second world war, the livery was changed into a light shade of machine green, with a slight metallic effect. AEG was among the first to adopt double electric insulation and to use reinforced resin materials for motor housings instead of metal. Together with Fein they were also the first to apply metal reinforced plastic housings. Close behind Skil's pioneering with electronics in power tools, Metabo just beat AEG with electronics in the first German tools, but AEG made Telefunken retaliate with its own electronics designs, using both TFK and Motorola components.
The tools were of absolute professional quality, there was no doubt about that. When the living standards became more lush in the 50's and DIY became fashionable, the drills sold to consumers had little or no difference with AEG trade drills. So the machines in "Heimwerker Sätze" ("home worker kits") were at least semi-professional, sometimes only with a smaller wattage and capacity, but with the same components on all other accounts. In the 60's there was another restyling. The models were modernised both technically and visually, with motor housings made from glass fibre reinforced industrial nylon (PolyAmid 6) in sleeker less rounded shapes, in "Berlin" blue, reminding of old traditions. All alloy parts were spraypainted in matt silver and the green typeplates were replaced by black decals with silver lettering. Strategic parts like switches were finished in contrasting red, changing into orange in the 70's.
Drills and grinders and jig saws were designed and made in Winnenden, but more specialist woodworking tools like belt and orbital sanders, planers and circular saws, were designed and made in cooperation with the biggest German specialist in that field, Maschinenfabrik Fellbach (Mafell, which moved to Oberndorf in 1933). I uploaded several other posts in the past about similarities between Mafell and AEG machines.
The early 80's were recession times in Europe. There were many competitors in the tool trade, especially in Germany. In fact the market was oversaturated with brands, factories either reacted with over the top gadgetry and multifunctions to offer more than competitors did, or just were eaten in mergers or simply ceased to exist. Elu was an example of being bought, Kress was an example of hitting hard times to be revived later on. In the early 70's, the Bulgarian firm Elprom in the town of Lowetsch bought license rights to make AEG tools, but AEG also ordered their budget models from Elprom in full AEG livery. These models were often recognisable by slightly different shades of the original Berlin blue, and by the moulded motor housing text "Made in W.Germany" missing. To cut costs due to sales losses during the 80's recession times, other cooperations than that with Elprom were sought. Forces were joined with car factory Peugeot's tool division "Outtilage Peugeot" and also with the French stationary woodworking machine manufacturer Lurem. This new combined effort was named "European Power Tool Company" (EPTC) and AEG again revamped its appearance because of it. The DIY line was to be finished in a slightly brighter and greener shade of blue, with matt black replacing much of the matt silver. The trade line (this was the first time that AEG clearly distinguished such lines through appearance) was to become matt black all over. Alloy parts were sprayed in a more flaky and glossy silver finish, the orange details and the black/silver decals remained. EPTC was purchased by Daimler AG in 1985, together with the whole of AEG. The transport division of AEG (technology for electric trains and locomotives) got the name of AdTranz.
The Swedish rock and mine drilling and compressed air gear specialist Atlas Copco bought AEG Elektrowerkzeuge in 1992. It sought to enter the electric tool market and to gain electric tool knowledge to better fight competitor Hilti, who was busy developing the first water cooled capsulated electric mine drill. Since its compressors units and excavators and air tools were already known worldwide by their yellow and black livery, Atlas intended to present their electric power tool in the same familiar colours. The first tool introduced as such, was an electric pneumatic drill from the former Kango factory, which was already bought by Atlas some time earlier. This KV850 was received by Black & Decker in a storm of cleverly orchestrated marketing uproar, since B&D intended to also introduce power tools from their DeWalt brand in yellow and black, which are typical building trade signal colours. Atlas let go of the colour claim and settled for the all black that was already adopted for AEG trade line power tools. Atlas also purchased Milwaukee tools in 1995 and shoved the former red-and-silver Milwaukee tools in their catalogue in also an all matt black livery, with the AEG's flaky silver for alloy parts.
The sale of AEG and Milwaukee to TTI in 1999, and TTI's purchase of Ridgid and other USA brands, explains the confusing mix of all sorts of models and liveries, with many similarities between the individual assortments of each brand. So TTI chose to dispense with the Atlas all-black, initially returned AEG into blue and Milwaukee into red, but recently decided to turn AEG into Ridgid orange. I don't think i'll ever buy such an orange AEG tool, though some of them are still made in Winnenden (look for a proper "Made in Germany" and not just the Max Eythstrasse address on the decall).
Choose the AEG models that look the as much the same as the original older Winnenden products. Preferably go for the older blue versions, some of the newest blue machines were already made in China (like some drill models and a belt sander, which is also made in China for Metabo). Better still: find the all black trade AEG tools or the Berlin blue and silver ones. These are still my all time favourites and they make up a relatively large part of my tool collection.