Strengthened component sector bodes well for potential exports – 10 new suppliers for next generation C-Class build.
Significant investment by motor manufacturing giant, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA), into the production of the new C-Class will not only benefit the economy of South Africa, but has also resulted in 10 new component sector suppliers setting up shop in the country – three of these will carry out sequencing operations.
The C-Class model currently in pre-production at the MBSA East London plant takes technology to the next level, with several new processes keeping the vehicle at the cutting edge of modern automotive excellence. These include amongst others, localised components and processes such as aluminium skin panels; complex laser welding; roll forming for complex structural profiles; advanced rear axle assembly; aluminium pre-treatment and natural fibre pressings.
“MBSA believes that a collaborative approach to the sustainable development of both the automotive and component supply sectors is the most viable solution,” says CEO-designate, Mr Arno van der Merwe.
The company put this principle into practice when it partnered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the East London Industrial Development Zone (ELIDZ) to woo potential new suppliers as part of its new C-Class expansion plans.
This initiative has a two-pronged goal: to expand existing South African component suppliers, and to encourage other global component suppliers not yet producing in South Africa to join the industry, either through joint ventures or new establishments, and so bring with them their access to global research and development, and innovative technologies.
“We are reliant on the efficiency and quality of our suppliers to maintain our standards as a world-class operation. The company views the new C-Class as an opportunity to further strengthen the competitiveness of the local supplier base and increase localisation,” van der Merwe says.
The alliance with the ELIDZ has thus far managed to attract five additional international suppliers to set up shop in the development zone’s automotive supplier park, and adds further value to the region’s automotive sector capabilities. This has an impact on job creation, as well as skills transfer and training. It also ensures a shorter logistics pipeline for the supply of parts, and a cost effective and reliable supply chain.
To date the ELIDZ has a thriving hub of 14 automotive investors with a shared investment value of just over R1.4 billion.
“Bringing new technologies to the South African supplier industry has been an important success story in our local content drive. This is particularly important to enable future localisation activities where the availability of technology is often a stumbling block,” van der Merwe adds.
MBSA saw the successful run-out of the previous C-Class model at the end of 2013, with the new C-Class due for launch in South Africa by the middle of 2014. The current C-Class performed extremely well in 2013, despite being in its final lifecycle, contributing to MBSA’s leadership in the mid-luxury segment. Says van der Merwe: “We are confident that the next generation C-Class will build on this success, and extend the viability of our manufacturing plant.”
MBSA has consistently placed among the top plants in the world, based on the build quality of its C-Class, winning five consecutive JD Power and Associates IQS Awards from the USA as well as IPSOS Customer Experience Awards locally.