While you might associate “Mercedes-Benz” with large, sumptuous cars like the elegant S Class, it seems that its compact models—the CLA, the GLA, and the A- and B-class (the last two not available in the U.S. Yet. Never say never.)—are in huge demand.
The Mercedes plant in Rastatt, Germany, has been running three shifts since October 2012.
Last week, Mercedes announced that in May it will add a third shift in its Kecskemét plant in Hungary.
The vehicles have a common architecture, which facilitates the build of a mix of models in the plant to meet demand. And Mercedes operates with a flexible production system that is capable of handling fast changes from one model to another.
(The company made significant investments in order to achieve this production capacity: 1.2 billion euros at the Rastatt plant and 800-million euros to build the plant in Kecskemét.)
The production line in Kecskemét
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, is certainly happy with way things are going in the plants and in the market. When the third shift in Kecskemét was being announced, he said, "Most recently, our production has hardly kept up with the dynamic sales development of our compacts. That's why we are now switching our second compact car plant to three-shift operations as well--this allows us to serve the wishes of our customers around the world even better and timelier." He added, “We have the right products at the right time, and we also have an excellent production team. With its great dedication and the top-notch quality delivered on a daily basis, this team is one of the key reasons we're able to convince more and more customers with our A- and B-Class, the CLA and the new GLA."
It’s worth noting that Mercedes also has a contract with Valmet Automotive (which you may recall once built the Karma for Fisker) to produce A-Class models until 2016, with an estimated total output on the order of 100,000 units. And the GLA for the Chinese market will be built at a plant in Beijing, a joint-venture facility between Daimler and BAIC.