Mercedes-Benz South Africa poised to start local production of new Mercedes Benz C-Class
- The Mercedes-Benz Mercedes Benz C-Class: pride of East London
- Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) contribution to the economy intensifies with the next generation Mercedes Benz C-Class
- Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, commends MBSA
- Technology at the MBSA plant becomes the benchmark in the SA automotive industry
- Skills levels soar as MBSA starts production of the Mercedes Benz C-Class
East London/ Anticipation is running high in the South African luxury vehicle market for the launch of the next generation Mercedes-Benz Mercedes Benz C-Class, which is tipped to surpass the record sales of its predecessor. On 15 May 2014, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) took another step closer in realising this investment, marking the official start of production of the new model at their East London manufacturing plant.
Even in its final year, the previous model Mercedes Benz C-Class was a top seller. The model has a special place in the South African automotive industry due to the exceptional performance of the plant to produce these vehicles in East London, for both local and export markets. A benchmark track record of superb quality has garnered the plant the prestigious J.D. Power and Associates Award in the US market for five consecutive years, achieving a platinum, two gold and two silver awards.
This track record has established MBSA East London firmly in the production network of its parent company, Daimler AG. Mr. Markus Schäfer, Divisional Board Member Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain Management says: “The new Mercedes Benz C-Class is a win for Mercedes-Benz South Africa and our East London plant. This plant is an important element of our highly flexible production network for our highest volume Mercedes-Benz model. With the new Mercedes Benz C-Class we’re taking automotive production in South Africa to the next level – also with regard to an innovative portfolio of technologies.”
An increase in capacity on the plant’s Mercedes Benz C-Class production line has had a ripple effect on the contribution that MBSA is able to make both directly, and through the component supply sector, to the economy of the Eastern Cape Province and the country.
Speaking at the start of production event, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, said the automotive industry is critical for the economy of the country and contributes significantly to the country’s GDP. He said the launch will benefit the country through employment creation and exports.
“This production launch is indicative of Mercedes-Benz continued drive to produce high quality products in SA and a supportive investment environment, enabled by significant levels of government support and initiatives to aid industrial upgrading. The economic benefit linkages arising out of the W205 project will continue to benefit both the regional Eastern Cape economy as well as the SA economy in years to come,” said the Minister.
In excess of 550 direct jobs have been created at the plant, with 10 new suppliers adding to the tally of new jobs created around the new Mercedes Benz C-Class. Already regarded amongst the best in the industry, MBSA plant employees have been groomed to work on advanced production technology. Close to R60 million has been channelled into training initiatives, with more than 1 200 training interventions, including assignments to various international plants. In addition, nearly 900 unemployed people from the Border Kei region have been upskilled,
Several new technologies will place the MBSA plant at the cutting edge of global automotive production. CEO and vice president for manufacturing at MBSA, Arno van der Merwe explains: “We will bring 10 new cutting edge production technologies to East London in our Bodyshop alone. Several new processes include amongst others, localised components and processes such as aluminium skin panels; complex laser welding; roll forming for complex structural profiles; advanced rear axle carriage assembly; aluminium pre-treatment and natural fibre pressings.“
Many of these technologies also empower the local supply industry. The new Mercedes Benz C-Class boasts ten new suppliers (including three sequencing operations), who have set up shop in the country.
Van der Merwe says: “Our Mercedes Benz C-Class production is already upheld by many as the pride of the Eastern Cape. With the next generation model, we strengthen a commitment and responsibility to the province and the country that stretches back more than 60 years. We are honoured to be able to continue this iconic legacy.”
Over the last five years Mercedes-Benz South Africa has increased production capacity steadily, culminating in record production levels in 2012. This stable growth pattern will accelerate significantly with the introduction of our new Mercedes Benz C-Class and a capacity increase of more than 50% in 2015, the third shift being already implemented in 2014.
Minister Davies added that the MIDP was successful in positioning the SA sector as a competitive supplier of exported autos products, and the APDP aims to consolidate those gains and significantly increase the volume of autos products being manufactured in SA. He highlighted that the new Mercedes Benz C-Class production will enhance South Africa’s automotive manufacturing capability and capacity.
“Projects such as the W205 production play a significant role in helping achieve the APDP target of 1.2 million vehicles assembled in SA by the end of the decade, and even more heartening is the increase in project investment levels from that initially budgeted for. This is indicative of spending to support even further capacity enhancement. The SA government remains steadfast in its commitment to sustaining and growing the local industry”, stated Minister Davies.
East London Industrial Development Zone (ELIDZ) CEO, Simphiwe Kondlo, comments: “Our engagement with MBSA in building the automotive production capacity of the Eastern Cape is a vital partnership that underpins the attraction of foreign investment and the location of new, competitive production and product technologies. In this respect, the establishment of a world class e-coating facility at the IDZ in support of the new Mercedes Benz C-Class production heralds a significant achievement for the auto industry development in South Africa and is set to grow the total automotive investment base located within the Buffalo City Metro.”
“At the same time, the achievement of the new model launch also enables and supports the long-term enhancement of employment potential in the region. MBSA is also commended for its efforts to deepen local content and the ELIDZ is working to ensure that it prepares a receptive and world class manufacturing production location in the IDZ that is well configured to accommodate and continue to grow such investment, in support of further development of local content inputs and growth in employment”, he adds.
Mercedes Benz C-Class models produced in the East London plant will be exported all over the globe. “Truly out of Africa, for the world,” van der Merwe concludes.