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Johann Puch first produced bicycles in 1889 in a small workshop called "Fahrradfabrikation Strauchergasse 18 a" in Graz. Ten years later he founded his company, "Erste Steiermärkische Fahrradfabrik AG" (en: "First Styrian Bicycle AG"). Puch's company became successful through innovation and quality handicraft, rapidly expanding over time. It soon began producing motorcycles and mopeds.
The main production plant, later called "Einser-Werk", was constructed in the south of Graz, in the district of Puntigam. Production of engines was started in 1901 and cars followed in 1904. In 1906 the production of the two-cylinder Puch Voiturette began and in 1909 a Puch car broke the world high-speed record with 130,4 km/h. In 1910, Puch even produced sedans for members of the imperial family. In 1912, the 38 PS (horsepower) Type VIII "Alpenwagen" was developed.
In 1912 Johann Puch went into retirement and became the company's honorary president. In that year the company employed about 1,100 workers and produced 16,000 bicycles and over 300 motorcycles and cars annually. During World War I, Puch became an important vehicle supplier to the Austro-Hungarian Army. However with the collapse of the empire following the War, the market for automobiles shrank and production was discontinued.
In 1923 the double-piston motor was patented.
In 1928 the company merged with Austro-Daimler and became a part of the new Austro-Daimler-Puchwerke. This company in its turn merged in 1934 with Steyr AG to form Steyr-Daimler-Puch. Like all enterprises of its kind, the Puch production plants had to change to arms production during World War II. The existing capacity was insufficient, therefore a second plant was constructed and opened in 1941 in Thondorf, Graz. In the three original assembly halls, luxury vehicles for the American market were produced.
Puch is on Wikipedia's list of companies using slave labour from the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp system. The list of companies using slave labour from the Mauthausen-Gusen camp system was long, and included both national corporations and small, local firms and communities. Some parts of the quarries were converted into a Mauser machine pistol assembly plant. In 1943, an underground factory for the Steyr-Daimler-Puch company was built in Gusen.
In 1949, an assembly cooperation agreement was signed with Fiat in Turin. The 1950s to the mid-1970s saw a sharp increase in production of motorcycles, bicycles and mopeds. Even though Puch was a part of Steyr-Daimler-Puch, it still produced products under its own name, as well as for Steyr-Puch and other companies.
- 1957: The legendary Puch 500 small car came on the market.
- 1958: Production of the Steyr-Puch Haflingers started. 16,657 vehicles are produced in total and exported into 110 countries.
- 1966 Sobiesław Zasada wins the European Rally Championship on a 650 TR II.
- 1970: The cross-country Steyr-Puch vehicle Pinzgauer was launched - production continued until 1999 with over 24,000 built.
- 1973: Production of the Fiat 126, containing a Puch engine, commenced.
- 1979: A joint-venture with Mercedes-Benz saw Puch building the engine for the Mercedes-Benz G-Class in Graz.
- 1983: A joint-venture with Volkswagen saw the Volkswagen Type 2 (T3)'s engine being built in Graz.
In the late 1980s, the company was being squeezed out by competition. In 1987 massive restructuring of the company led to the end of the production of two-wheelers in Graz. The company's technical know-how was always better than its marketing and commercial success. The Puch motorcycle company was sold to Piaggio, maker of the Vespa, in 1987 and still produces bikes under the name "Puch". Steyr-Puch, assembler of four wheel drive vehicles and parts, still exists next to the Piaggio division.
The so-called "Einserwerk", the first production plant, shut down in the early 2000s. The historical assembly-hall was declared a protected industrial monument. When Graz became European Capital of Culture in 2003, a Puch museum was opened in one of the former assembly halls .