German car plants serve as EV competence centers: Mercedes-Benz Cars takes strategic decision for Electric Offensive in production

German car plants serve as EV competence centers: Mercedes-Benz Cars takes strategic decision for Electric Offensive in production

Feb 1, 2017
  • Next Milestone in the corporate strategy "CASE"
  • Highly flexible production network enables production of electric vehicles in existent plants of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
  • Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen Plant second site to produce electric vehicles of the new product brand EQ after Bremen

Stuttgart –Future EQ models are to be integrated into the series production of the existing Mercedes-Benz plants on four continents. The new generation of electric vehicles will be based on an architecture specifically developed for battery-electric models, which in every respect will be scalable and applicable across the model range. At which sites within the production network the EQ models will be produced is decided in relation to market demand. “ Mercedes-Benz Cars is setting the strategic course for the production of electric vehicles within the global production network. In this way, we are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by electric mobility and are significantly limiting the required investment. We have invested worldwide at an early stage in flexibility and technical equipment with groundbreaking Industry 4.0 solutions. With our plants in Bremen, Rastatt and Sindelfingen as well as the smart plant in Hambach, France, we now have four competence centers for the production of electric vehicles,” states Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain Management. All three German Mercedes-Benz car plants Bremen, Rastatt and Sindelfingen will play a key role for electric mobility in the global production network: They are competitive on a worldwide basis with regard to the production portfolio as well as innovation capability, and will offer the employees good prospects for the future.

"We very much welcome the decisions that have been taken. It is a key strategic goal of the works council that the German plants participate in the company's electric strategy. We see the decisions regarding investments and products as important milestones on this path" states Michael Brecht, Chairman of the General Works Council of Daimler AG. "Not only the electric mobility, also the increasing digitisation will change the tasks and jobs – even whole career profiles – of our employees. It takes a secure framework to make sure that the whole team is involved and motivated to further qualify for what lies ahead. It must be clear that, despite all challenges, the jobs are safe. This requires commitments for investment, development and volume of production on the part of the company.”

Qualification in the competence centers

Mercedes-Benz Cars, with the brands Mercedes-Benz and smart, has solid experience in the integration of electric vehicles into series production. Since April 2014, the B-Class Electric Drive has been produced at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Rastatt on the same line as vehicles with combustion engines. Already in 2007, smart was a pioneer of electric mobility and launched a battery-electric car on the market. This year, the fourth generation of the smart fortwo electric drive will go into production as coupé and convertible versions on the same line as the smart cars with conventional drive.

The new electric vehicles of the EQ brand are also to be integrated into normal series production as additional drive versions at the existing plants. Innovative and future-oriented production technology places new requirements on the employees, for which they are receiving intensive training. Special qualification programs are planned, for example in the area of high-voltage technology under production conditions. Junior management staff members are also being prepared in their training for working with the technologies of the future.

Electric offensive by Mercedes-Benz Cars

Mercedes-Benz Cars is consolidating all activities in connection with electric mobility under the new product brand EQ, and the Concept EQ gives a clear outlook onto a completely new generation of vehicles. Mercedes-Benz Cars plans to launch more than ten electric vehicles by 2025: in all segments from smart to large SUVs. The company assumes that until 2025 the proportion of electric vehicles in total unit sales of Mercedes-Benz will be between 15 and 25 percent. This is dependent on on the development of infrastructure and client preferences. The EQ product brand is an elementary component of the corporate strategy for the mobility of the future, which is summarized under the acronym CASE. The four letters stand for the strategic pillars of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive (Electric), which Daimler is systematically developing and intelligently linking.

TecFactory and Electric Integration Center (EIC)

In order to play a leading role with future products and production technologies, Mercedes-Benz has established the TecFactory to link up its departments for design, development, procurement, sales, and production. The various departments cooperate closely already at a very early stage of product development. A major role is played by thorough digitization: It creates the right conditions for highly flexible production and the increasing individualization of cars in accordance with customers’ wishes. In the context of Industry 4.0 and the smart factory, all Mercedes-Benz plants are connected with each other, allowing central access to data and process control.

Another joint initiative of production and development is the new Electric/Electronic Integration Center (EIC). The goal here is to prepare the electric/electronic architecture of Mercedes-Benz vehicles for future challenges arising from electric drive, connected vehicles, autonomous driving and flexible usage concepts. For this purpose, mixed teams will move into the EIC, which is to be located at the Sindelfingen site.

Cultural change in production

With the digital change and the orientation towards future technologies, the working culture in production will also change. The diversity of vehicle versions due to the various drivetrain technologies will require a highly flexible production system focused on humans with their tactile and cognitive abilities. By means of intelligent human-robot cooperation, the degree of automation will be reduced and workplaces in production will be ergonomically optimized.

About CASE

CASE – these letters will shape the future of Mercedes-Benz Cars. They stand for the strategic pillars of connectivity (Connected), autonomous driving (Autonomous), flexible use (Shared & Services) and electric drive systems (Electric), which will be intelligently combined by the company. Already today, Mercedes-Benz Cars plays a leading role in all four areas. All activities in the area of connectivity are focused on the digital brand Mercedes me, which gives customers access to an extensive and personalized range of services by app, website or straight from their car. On the way to autonomous driving, Mercedes‑Benz has for years been a key driver of development and has repeatedly set the benchmark. To this end, the Mercedes engineers use so-called sensor fusion. The data from different sensors, such as cameras, ultrasound and radar, are intelligently combined and analyzed. With car2go the inventor of the automobile is also a pioneer when it comes to sharing. With around two million users, the company is today the world's biggest provider of free-floating car-sharing. As far as the electrification of the powertrain is concerned, Mercedes‑Benz is pursuing an integrated approach. Under the EQ brand, it is developing an ecosystem including not just the actual vehicle, but also a comprehensive offering around electric mobility. This extends from intelligent services to energy storage units for private and commercial customers as well as charging technologies, such as inductive charging, to sustainable recycling. To enable all four pillars to develop its full effectiveness, the relevant activities are being brought together in an independent entity.

About Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations

Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations is responsible for passenger car production at 29 locations around the world as part of a flexible and efficient production network involving round about 78,000 employees. This includes the central functions of production planning, technology fabric, logistics, and quality. Mercedes-Benz Cars produced more than two million Mercedes-Benz and smart passenger cars last year, marking the sixth record in a row. The network is based on the product architectures of front-wheel drive (compact cars) and rear-wheel drive (for example the S-Class, E-Class, and C-Class) as well as the SUV and sports car architectures. In addition, there is a powertrain production compound (engines, transmissions, axles and components). Each of these production compounds is grouped around a lead plant that serves as a center of competence for the ramp-up of new products, technology and quality assurance. The focus of day-to-day work is on the continuous improvement and refinement of state-of-the-art production methods, which allow future high-tech vehicles to be produced in a way that is efficient, flexible and environmentally friendly, according to the typical Mercedes-Benz quality standards. All of this revolves around the employees and their expertise, whose work is systematically supported by ergonomic workplace design and intelligent automation. In addition to its own production plants, Mercedes-Benz is increasingly leveraging partnerships and utilizing capacities at contract manufacturers as part of its growth strategy.

Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management, Daimler AG, at the spotless test factory - part of the TecFactory in Sindelfingen.