Mercedes-Benz SA invests R10-billion

 

Markus Schaefer from Mercedes-Benz with President Cyril Ramaphosa pose for the camera in East London at the announcement of a R10-billion plant extension yesterday
Image: Michael Pinyana

Hundreds of new jobs are on the cards for the Eastern Cape as a result of a R10-billion investment made by Mercedes-Benz Cars into their East London manufacturing plant, which will see the factory extended to create a smarter, greener, increasingly digitised plant.

The multibillion-rand investment was announced by Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain member Markus Schäffer at the corporation’s auditorium in the East London plant, among hundreds of cheering, singing MBSA employees and dignitaries led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, minister of trade and industry Rob Davies, minister of small business & development Lindiwe Zulu, and finance minister Nhanhla Nene.

Schäfer said the year was a very special one for the plant as it was celebrating 60 years since it started manufacturing the first C-Class sedan in East London.

Schäfer said: “With the investment of à600-million [R10-billion] we are significantly expanding our plant in East London and equipping it for the future. The decision to have the new generation of the C-Class built in East London reaffirms our commitment to the plant and to Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

“The investment is also a sign of our commitment to South Africa and to efforts to revive economic growth, as well as the socio-economic development of the East London region.”

He added that the plant was one of only four in the world producing the C-Class range and ranked among the top five plants in the world for its quality production and 99.9% employee attendance record.

Mercedes-Benz South Africa CEO and executive director of production Andreas Engling praised the employees at the plant for having given the plant its fine reputation.

“With the investment of à600-million [R10-billion] we are significantly expanding our plant in East London and equipping it for the future. The decision to have the new generation of the C-Class built in East London reaffirms our commitment to the plant and to Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

Markus Schäffer

He said: “With initiatives like the Mercedes-Benz Learning Academy, we are promoting the overall industrial and commercial development of the Eastern Cape.

“The solid manufacturing heritage of the East London plant would have not been possible without the dedication and passion of our employees and robust labour relations that continue to put us in a competitive position in terms of quality, delivery and cost.”

“The investment will be used for a wide expansion of the plant. Many different parts of the plant are affected by the expansion, both green and brownfield.

“The new body shop is designed for higher capacities and features more than 500 “Internet of Things”-ready robots laying the foundation for Industry 4.0 readiness.

“Seven hundred tons of steel will be installed for the addition of three lines in the assembly shop. This expansion will take place in the current building. Using new methods, the new paint shop will be more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly.”

Engling said the overall energy consumption per produced vehicle would be reduced by 25% in the new plant, in line with their drive to attain greener production. “Other examples include an on-site battery storage container, rainwater harvesting on rooftops, water storage of one million litres and the creation of green corridors,” he said.

Ramaphosa welcomed the multibillion-rand investment in South Africa by the German car giant.

“Mercedes-Benz has for 60 years been producing cars that leave this city for the rest of the world. However, it’s not just about the cars, but about the lives impacted by building cars here and boosting the economy while up-skilling our people.

“The R10-billion will impact many more lives as it will create jobs in line with policy to tackle unemployment. This will increase export capacity, boost jobs, develop skills and nurture talent. This company is taking giant steps with learnerships and apprenticeships.”

Ramaphosa appealed to the company to source local procurement and localise suppliers to create jobs for the previously disadvantaged.

“Mercedes-Benz has entered a new dawn.” — mbalit@dispatch.co.za

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