Mercedes-Benz has finally commenced the production of a long-wheelbase version of the C-Class, less than half a year since it started assembly of the standard model. It didn’t even take six months since Mercedes began the assembly of the new C-Class in Bremen, Germany for the first long-wheelbase C-Class model to roll off the production line at Beijing Benz Automotive Co., Ltd. (BBAC) in China.
To be introduced in China in September, the long-wheelbase C-Class marks a new strategic milestone for Daimler in a market considered as the largest in world.
Hubertus Troska, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for China, remarked that the C-Class is at the core of the company’s development in China. He noted that China is the second largest market for the C-Class, after delivering over 150,000 units of the previous model in the country. He quipped that the all-new long-wheelbase C-Class represents the next massive step for Daimler in China. Troska said that they expect the long-wheelbase C-Class to be one of their top growth drivers in China, as the vehicle was designed and developed for this market as well as produced exclusively in the country.
Frank Deiss, president and chief executive of BBAC, noted that the C-Class sedan is their most global model, with production being done in four plants in four continents. He added that as a part of Mercedes’ global production network, BBAC has a commitment to deliver ‘The best or nothing’ in Beijing. He noted that this mantra has been a driving factor of the carmaker’s success in the past and will still be in the future.
Markus Schafer, Divisional Board Member Mercedes-Benz Cars in charge of Production and Supply Chain Management, commented that the start of the production of the C-Class in Beijing reveals the final piece of the puzzle in building a flexible yet efficient production network on four continents. He noted that a global ramp up within less than six months is unmatched in the premium segment so far.
Mercedes’ Bremen site serves as the lead plant, leading the global production of the C-Class in practically all fields -- tooling strategy, employee training in international plants and even production quality. This way, Mercedes could ensure top quality at all production plants right from the start. In fact, the Bremen plant has intensively trained around 500 employees from international plants in South Africa (East London site), United States (Tuscaloosa site), and China (Beijing); in the process passing on their knowledge as multipliers.
Compared to the standard C-Class, the new long-wheelbase version features a wheelbase that has been extended by 8 cm, resulting to a more spacious and more comfortable interior felt most in the rear cabin, where the backseat legroom has been further maximized.
The new long-wheelbase C-Class is laden with more advanced technology as well as a host of assistant systems that allow this new model to offer maximum safety and convenience in its segment. These technologies include a semi-autonomous driving pilot as well as a touchpad that could comprehend Chinese handwriting to operate the head unit functions. Amazingly, even the engines that will be fitted inside the new C-Class are manufactured locally at BBAC in Beijing and at Mercedes’ first passenger car engine factory outside of Germany.
BBAC is a joint venture between Daimler and Chinese partner BAIC Motor that manufactures Mercedes-Benz passenger cars (since 2006) and engines (since 2013). BBAC produced around 120,000 vehicles last year, which makes up for around half of Mercedes’ total sales volume in China. Through 2015, Daimler and BAIC Motor are jointly making EUR4 billion in investments into BBAC, EUR1 billion of which was used to expand its domestic car and engine production capacity.
The investment is expected to more than double the current production capacities at BBAC for the C-Class, the E-Class and the GLK-Class to more than 200,000 annually by 2015. Next year, BBAC will commence production of the compact GLA.
Mercedes’ four- and six-cylinder engines built at BBAC are fitted into domestically produced BBAC cars and into vans locally assembled by Fujian Benz Automotive Co., Ltd. (FBAC), also a local joint venture by Daimler. Having an annual capacity of 250,000 units for the first phase, BBAC’s engine production line was designed to build different engine types.
BBAC’s new R&D site just recently went into full operation, after receiving around EUR90 million in investments. Considered as the largest of Daimler’s joint venture R&D centers in the world, the BBAC R&D site conducts component and vehicle testing. It also supports all production tests and future localization. The new BBAC R&D site will be manned by a cross-functional team of around 700 employees from R&D, quality management and purchasing.