Picture: Yves Herman, Reuters

Johannesburg - Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) anticipates the possibility of further capacity shifts from other Daimler production plants to its East London plant in the future.

Arno van der Merwe, the chief executive and executive director of manufacturing at MBSA, said this could give Mercedes-Benz hybrid vehicles an even more meaningful part of its production at its East London plant. He confirmed earlier this month that the East London plant would by the end of this year commence production of the Mercedes-Benz C350e, the company’s second plug-in model.


He said with the production of the plug-in hybrid, MBSA was taking another important step in its manufacturing capability.

Van der Merwe added that it was still a relatively niche product, but the company saw strong growth globally taking place for full hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles. He said MBSA was also installing hybrid vehicle production capability in its East London plant to enable it to take advantage of parent company Daimler’s flexible production network.

Van der Merwe said Daimler had set up a flexible production network for the new C-Class.

He said four Daimler plants produced the C-Class and this flexible production network enabled Daimler to better shift volumes and capacities between various plants in the world.

Flexible production

Van der Merwe said this flexible production network meant that MBSA could incorporate high work content type vehicles, such as hybrid vehicles, into the East London plant.

He said the anticipated volumes of Mercedes-Benz C350e’s produced in the East London plant had not yet been finalised nor had the investment in the plant for the production of this plug-in hybrid.

A further investment of R498 million was made in the East London plant in a drive to ensure maximum productivity and efficiency. It was one of only four Daimler plants worldwide selected to produce the new C-Class, which resulted in investments worth more than R5 billion into the South African economy between 2011 and last year. The establishment of a regional centre by Daimler Trucks and Buses for southern Africa is also set to result in further investment in MBSA’s truck assembly plant in East London.

Wolfgang Bernhard, the management board head at Daimler responsible for Daimler Trucks and Buses, confirmed last month that new truck products would be assembled at its East London truck plant.

“In terms of product, we are on the offensive and will grow our product range as we move forward and have plans to put those vehicles into East London. We don’t know yet what the investment will be, but it’s a good business case for us to do that,” he said.