Stuttgart, Germany/Kecskemét, Hungary – The Hungarian Mercedes-Benz plant in Kecskemét remains the birthplace of the CLA: Following the sales success of the CLA Coupé, launched in 2013, the production of the second generation of this compact model – like its predecessor – now starts exclusively in Kecskemét.
Mercedes-Benz Cars is thus seamlessly following up on the ramp-up cascade of the past year. In 2018 four models of the new compact car family left the lines in five locations on three continents within a record time: the A-Class hatchback in Rastatt, Kecskemét (Hungary) and Uusikaupunki (Finland), the A-Class Sedan in Aguascalientes (Mexico), the A-Class L Sedan (long wheelbase) in Peking (China) and the new B-Class in Rastatt. This rapid succession of production ramp-ups in well-known Mercedes-Benz quality was made possible by training courses at the lead plant in Rastatt, Germany, through standardization of processes, the use of Industry 4.0 technologies and the great flexibility of the locations in the global compact car production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
The new CLA is above all designed to appeal to younger buyer groups. The CLA Coupé was the first Mercedes-Benz model ever to celebrate its world premiere at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 in Las Vegas.
“The ramp-up of the new CLA Coupé once again demonstrates the effectiveness of our international production network for the compact models of Mercedes-Benz Cars. The success story of the preceding model was already closely associated with the Kecskemét plant. We are now writing the next chapter in this story. While the plant continues to operate at the highest technological level,” says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain.
Production of the CLA exclusively for the world market
“For more than five years, the CLA has had a very special importance for our team: over 750,000 CLA und CLA Shooting Brake of the first generation have already left our production lines in Kecskemét. This figure, together with the international quality awards won by the model now being replaced, is proof positive of the peak performance delivered by our workforce. We are all the more pleased that we are also producing the new CLA – as the only Mercedes-Benz plant worldwide,” says Christian Wolff, CEO and Site Manager of Mercedes-Benz Manufacturing Hungary Kft.
Since 2018 the model range of the Hungarian Mercedes-Benz plant includes the CLA and the CLA Shooting Brake as well as the A-Class. In continuing the production of the new CLA Coupé, the plant is retaining its attractive model range while strengthening its role in the production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
Innovative, digital and flexible production
Extensive preparatory measures were made at the plant for the ramp-up cascade of the compact cars. A new bodyshop equipped with numerous innovations was built. For example, modular production for the new model series takes place in so-called flex-bays. Within a very short time, these modular, exchangeable production stations allow changes of the model produced.
The plant has also made major progress towards the reference plant strategy with its innovative materials transport concepts: With the help of various in-plant trials and production-friendly solutions, the development of body-in-white production without forklifts is continuously pursued, contributing to higher efficiency and to further improvements in working safety. For example, wheelhouses of the new compact car generation are transported in the body shop using automatic guided vehicles (AGV) moving between the individual production stations, and at the Kecskemét plant AGVs are also used to transport entire bodyshells.
The concept of forklift-free assembly is also systematically implemented at the Hungarian site, as another example of the innovative production and supply technologies that above all also improve safety. As part of this programme, all fork-lift trucks are removed from the assembly shop. They are replaced by special roller platforms on which materials are transported to the assembly shop by load trains or automatic guided vehicles, irrespective of the container type. At present 99 percent of the assembly operations at the location are already forklift-free.
The automatic guided vehicle systems help to meet the high efficiency and flexibility requirements when producing different equipment variants: They deliver precisely the components and parts required for individual vehicles to the assembly line. They are then directly installed with no buffer stock.
In Kecskemét, supporting the process of digital transformation and Industry 4.0, the “paperless factory” project is being implemented with the strategic aim of gradually replacing paper documentation in production with the latest data transfer technology and hardware solutions. As part of this transformation, the production line documentation accompanying the vehicle and the verification of internal processes will in future be completed paperlessly.
The new CLA – emotional, sporty and intelligent
The first generation of the CLA was already seen as a design icon. The new Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé follows its example, combining an emotional, dynamic design idiom with numerous technological innovations.
For example, one year after the premiere of the infotainment system MBUX at the CES 2018 show in Las Vegas, the next stage of this application will find its first use in the compact class: the MBUX Interior Assistant. This intelligent system can not only be operated by voice control, but also recognises gestures. Thanks to innovative technology, it now supports the occupants by making various comfort and MBUX functions even simpler and more intuitive. For example, even more intelligent comfort is ensured by the new ENERGIZING COACH with individual fitness recommendations.
The CLA also has a very high level of active safety in the compact car segment, with functions adopted from the S‑Class. Among others, the vehicle comes with the latest driving assistance systems giving cooperative support to the driver. For the first time, the CLA is also able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations. Improved camera and radar systems allow it to see up to 500 metres ahead.
The new CLA Coupé and the CLA Edition 1 will enter the market in May 2019.
About the Mercedes-Benz Kecskemét plant
The Mercedes-Benz plant in Kecskemét has around 4700 employees. In 2018 it produced more than 190,000 Mercedes-Benz compact vehicles. The first model to roll off the line in Kecskemét was the Mercedes-Benz B-Class in 2012. It was followed by the four-door CLA compact coupe in 2013 and by the CLA Shooting Brake in 2015. Both of these models are produced exclusively in Kecskemét for the world market. Since May 2018 the new A-Class has been part of the product range in the Hungarian production location.