The Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) plant in East London has again been ranked as one of the top manufacturing plants in the world.
It won the silver award in this year’s US JD Power initial quality study for the Europe-Africa region. This is the sixth consecutive year it has been among the rankings and it was the only vehicle plant in Africa to receive an award.
The accolade is based on responses to a survey by 86 000 US consumers after 90 days of ownership of new models and is regarded by the international automotive industry as a benchmark for quality and reliability.
It is also regarded as important in helping MBSA to secure and retain successive contracts for the production of the C-Class and to gain approval for investments in new technologies and capacity expansions.
The plant is one of only four Daimler plants worldwide selected to produce the new C-Class, resulting in MBSA deciding to invest more than R5 billion into the economy between 2011 and next year.
The plant produced the previous C-Class model for the local and US markets and registered 27 problems per 100 vehicles produced in the study. This model was replaced by the latest C-Class model, with production beginning last month.
Porsche’s plant in Leipzig in Germany received the gold award in the Europe-Africa category with 26 problems per 100 vehicles.
MBSA’s East London plant now boasts a platinum award in 2010, as the highest-ranking plant in the world supplying the US market, plus two gold awards in 2009 and 2011 and three silver awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014 in the Europe-Africa region.
The platinum award this year went to Toyota’s Cambridge South plant in Ontario in Canada, which produces the Lexus RX, with 12 problems per 100 vehicles.
In the North/South America region, the General Motors plant in Ingersoll in Ontario, which produces the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, received the silver award with 20 problems per 100 vehicles.
Toyota’s Kyushu 1 and Kyushu 2 plants in Japan tied for the gold award in the Asia Pacific region with each achieving 18 problems per 100 vehicles. The Kyushu 1 plant produces the Lexus CT and Lexus RX, and the Kyushu 2 plant the Lexus ES, Lexus IS and Lexus RX.
David Sargent, the vice-president of global automotive at JD Power, said the number of problems experienced by new vehicle owners had increased from the previous year as vehicle makers continued to be challenged when introducing sophisticated technologies.
This increase in problems was found mainly in the areas of voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing and audio systems.
The study found that loyalty to a brand was affected by the number of problems owners had experienced with their vehicles. “These early problems can set the tone for the entire ownership period and still have an effect years later when consumers replace their vehicles,” he said.
Arno van der Merwe, MBSA’s chief executive and vice-president manufacturing, attributed the consistency of the East London plant’s performance to a focus on efficiency improvement and stringent quality systems.
“While technology and process excellence is of vital importance, equally essential is the mindset and passion of our employees. We prioritise problem solving at all levels within the plant, by harnessing the unique skills of our employees. This award is a tribute to their tenacity and expertise.
“We are extremely proud of this award and its implication for our status as a first-class manufacturer,” he said.