It was immediately apparent that the Mercedes-Benz L 319 van presented in 1955 was derived from neither a passenger car nor a truck. Every aspect of the L 319 was designed with the needs of short-radius distribution in mind and with competitors such as Hanomag and Borgward in the company's sights.
Production of the L 319 panel van, pick-up and tipper variants began as early as September 1956 at the Sindelfingen plant. Meanwhile, at the Mannheim plant, the minibus went into series production under the designation O 319. It was powered by a 32-kW (43-hp) four-cylinder diesel engine, manufactured likewise from 1956.