The FINANCIAL — Mercedes-Benz Vans marked yesterday the groundbreaking of its new Sprinter plant for the North American market. Among the distinguished guests of the ceremony on-site were Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, and Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina. With this new full-scale plant, Mercedes-Benz Vans will offer faster and more individualized supply to its customers. The new plant is an expansion of the existing van assembly site. It represents an investment of around 500 million US dollars. Mercedes-Benz Vans will create up to 1,300 jobs. It is estimated that suppliers will create approximately 400 new jobs in and around North Charleston. First the body shop of the new plant will be constructed, followed by the paint shop and the assembly lines later this year. Production of the next-generation Sprinter is planned to begin before the end of the decade.
Writing automotive history in South Carolina
Volker Mornhinweg at the ceremony: “Today we are writing automotive history in South Carolina! The groundbreaking also marks an important milestone for our growth strategy ‘Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global’: With our new plant, we will continue with our success story in North America even more dynamically.”
Nikki Haley: “Today’s groundbreaking, and the 1,300 jobs it means, will build on the successful partnership that our friends at Daimler and Mercedes-Benz Vans have enjoyed with our state for years. We are proud to say that Mercedes-Benz vans will now be made in South Carolina!”
One of the most advanced automotive plants in North America
Frank Klein, Head of Operations Mercedes-Benz Vans: “Our new Sprinter plant is a big leap into the future of production at Mercedes-Benz Vans. We are combining all of our global expertise and experience in this plant. In doing so, we make it one of the most advanced facilities in North America. The plant will meet the highest standards in quality, based on our globally standardized production system – from the first vehicle that rolls off the assembly line.”
Mercedes-Benz Vans will implement its most innovative production technologies and concepts in the new plant. Focusing on connectivity like digital communications on the shop floor, it will be most agile and adaptive to respond fast to market changes and customer needs. The workforce will undergo comprehensive technical trainings to ensure a smooth and successful production ramp-up, according to Daimler.
Construction and preparations right on schedule
Michael Balke, incoming CEO of Mercedes-Benz Vans, LLC and Director of Production at the plant: “Construction and all necessary preparations are right on schedule. We have already begun to recruit and train a core team of employees in administration. We have also hired the first technical specialists. Applications of production job candidates will be accepted beginning mid-2017.”
Positive impact on the Charleston region
The current production area and administration building of the assembly plant in North Charleston cover 409,000 square feet (approx. 38,000 m²). The new facility will additionally cover around 1.1 million square feet (approx. 105,000 m²) plus a 2.8 million square feet (259,000 m²) marshalling yard for finished vehicles. With the new production site Mercedes-Benz Vans will be among the biggest industrial employers in the region. The new plant will make a further positive impact on the region’s economy and attract new business, especially among suppliers. For example the upfit integration partners of Mercedes-Benz Vans, Auto Truck Group as well as The Knapheide Manufacturing Company, will establish new production sites in the region, too.
Optimized delivery process for Sprinter vans
The United States is one of the fastest growing van markets in the world. It has become the second-largest single market for the Sprinter in terms of unit sales, after Germany. In 2015, Mercedes-Benz Vans delivered about 28,600 units to customers in the USA – eleven percent more than in the previous year (2014: 25,800 units). The Sprinter vans for the US market have so far been produced at German plants. However, because of high import tariffs, they have been partially dismantled in a time-consuming process, and reassembled at the North Charleston plant. Since 2006, Mercedes-Benz Vans has performed this so-called semi-knocked-down (SKD) assembly in North Charleston for imported Sprinter large-size vans and since 2015 also for imported Metris mid-size vans (“Vito” in other markets). This process results in a significant competitive disadvantage on the US market for Mercedes-Benz Vans. The new plant and the Sprinters “made in USA” will enable the company to more economically meet the growing demand and to considerably reduce delivery time to this market.
Global Sprinter production network
Including the future Sprinter production site in North Charleston, the large-size van is being manufactured at six locations around the world: In Germany at the center of competence for the production of large vans in Düsseldorf and at the plant in Ludwigsfelde. As the only manufacturer in the large van segment to do so, Mercedes-Benz Vans will continue producing the next-generation Sprinter at its German production sites. To this end, the division is investing 450 million euros in the modernization of both plants. The Sprinter is also being manufactured in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires and, within the framework of the joint-venture company Fujian Benz Automotive Co., Ltd., in Fuzhou in China. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Classic is being produced by Russian partner GAZ in Nizhny Novgorod, approximately 400 km east of Moscow.
Market success of the “world vehicle” Sprinter
The Sprinter is one of the most successful commercial vehicles of all time and a best-seller in the Daimler product portfolio. Since its market launch in 1995, the division has delivered over three million units of its “world vehicle” to customers. 2015 was the most successful year for the Sprinter in its history. In the year of its 20th birthday, sales rose by four percent to 194,200 vehicles. The founder of the segment for large vans is driven in over 130 countries. Over the years, it has been able to assert itself as market leader in several of these countries.
When Mercedes-Benz Vans launched the first Sprinter in 1995, it had recognized the signs of the times and the needs of customers. Highest quality standards were established, both in development and in production. Revolutionary aspects right from the start included the dynamic design, the numerous base variants, the efficient engines, exemplary safety equipment and the ergonomic cockpit. This innovative concept, the outstanding product quality and satisfied customers ensured a successful start for the sophisticated van. In particular for North America, Mercedes-Benz Vans has been a pioneer in bringing a van like the Sprinter to the market, offering these completely new levels of customer value. Coupled with its high profile, the Sprinter gave its name to an entire vehicle category and is today globally synonymous with the segment for vans with a gross vehicle weight of up to 5.5 tons.