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Thanks to sales success of Vito and V-Class: Mercedes-Benz Vans significantly expands capacity at its lead plant in Vitoria.
Mercedes-Benz Vans continues its path of global growth also in the current year. In the first quarter of 2016, the van manufacturer delivered 76,600 units to customers (up by 20 percent), a new record. The strongest sales drivers were the mid-size van Vito and the V-Class multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) with growth of around 60 percent respectively. Sales of the Vito were up by around 61 percent to 21,300 units in the first quarter (previous year: 13,200). The V-Class sold 9,300 units in the first quarter, up by around 58 percent on the previous year's figure (5,900). Also for 2016 as a whole, Mercedes-Benz Vans anticipates a significantly higher demand for both models compared with the previous year.
Taking account of the continuous high demand, the division is further expanding the production capacity at its global lead plant for the manufacture of mid-size vans in Vitoria, Spain. To this end, Mercedes-Benz Vans is increasing its capital expenditure in 2016 to around 41 million euros, up 14 million euros on 2015. A large proportion of this expenditure goes into the adaption of the body shop, the paint shop and the assembly line. The introduction of a third shift as from October this year is designed to achieve a significant increase in annual production.
"With the Vito and V-Class, we have turned the mid-size segment into the second pillar of our 'Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global' international growth strategy in addition to the Sprinter", explains Frank Klein, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Operations and responsible in that role for the division's worldwide production. "As the global lead plant for this series, our facility in Vitoria is the key factor behind this success. The highly motivated and qualified workforce is not just excellent in the way it deals with the rapid growth in demand. The experts in Vitoria also do outstanding work in connection with the further internationalisation of our production network. It is also thanks to them that we have established uniform Mercedes-Benz production processes around the world – with regards to the mid-size segment in the USA, Argentina and China - and are achieving top-level quality at all our plants.”
International production network for the vehicles of the mid-size segment
Mercedes-Benz Vans manufactures its mid-size vans at three other locations of its global production network: in the USA, Argentina and China. All these plants cooperate closely with the specialists at the lead plant in Vitoria. The experienced experts in Spain coordinate international production, from tooling strategy to logistics to quality management. Production of the V-Class at the joint venture Fujian Benz Automotive Co., Ltd (FBAC) in Fuzhou, China, started at the beginning of the year. As a next step, local production of the new Vito will begin in Fuzhou in the course of 2016.
To meet the high customer demand, for the first time the Vitoria plant manufactures also during all summer months in two shifts. Every day at present, around 540 vehicles roll off the line in Vitoria in two shifts – the figure was around 470 at the end of 2015. Consequently, since the beginning of the year Mercedes-Benz Vans has increased the workforce by around 800 to approximately 4,600. The introduction of a third shift as from October 2016 will result in the plant producing around 660 vehicles every day. In line with this growth, the number of employees is set to undergo another significant increase in the next few months. Mercedes-Benz Vans has invested a total of over 190 million euros in the start-up and expansion of production of the latest generations of the Vito and V-Class in Vitoria.
Vitoria - a pioneer in innovative production technologies
The plant which is situated in the heart of the Basque region in northern Spain plays a pioneering role within Mercedes-Benz Vans in relation to the use of innovative production systems.
"We are increasingly focusing on intelligent production as a way of making the plant ever more agile", explains Emilio Titos, manager of the Mercedes-Benz plant Vitoria. "The key factors in this are connectivity of machines and other means of production as well as the efficient use of large volumes of data. Already today, we are in a position to respond extremely flexible to market changes as well as a wide range of different customer wishes".
For example, Vitoria is Mercedes-Benz Vans' first plant to systematically identify and locate almost every load carrier in the body shop using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology. This significantly accelerates and improves the production processes while representing a further step on the way to the "paperless factory". In addition, Vitoria is the first plant in the globally integrated production network to use an LED-based light tunnel for automated paintwork inspection. Developed in cooperation with the University of Valencia, this technology comprises, besides the lighting, a highly sophisticated data processing as well as corresponding display of the results. This allows efficient, standardised inspection of paintwork and subsequent planning of further steps.
This year the plant in Vitoria is celebrating its 62nd anniversary. The first vehicle rolled off the line in 1954, when the plant still belonged to Auto-Union. In 1981, the entire plant was taken over by the then Daimler-Benz AG. Today, the 600,000 m² site is home to a production area of 370,000 m². The plant supplies almost all global markets. It is also one of the key industrial centres in the Basque region, generating around 3.3 percent of Basque gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 and some 10 percent of Basque exports.
Mercedes-Benz Vito – the second “world van”
Alongside the Sprinter, the Vito is now Mercedes-Benz Vans' second “world van”. With the Vito the division opened up numerous new markets in 2015 while consistently growing its unit sales. Total worldwide unit sales of the Vito rose by 23 percent in 2015 to over 74,400 vehicles (previous year: 60,300). With a growth of around 38 percent, an increased proportion of this was due to the growing popularity of the mid-size van among fleet and volume customers around the world. Following its introduction in Europe and in other global markets in 2014, the Vito has also become available in Latin America, the USA and Canada – in both North American markets it is known as the Metris – since 2015. With its attractive design and wide choice of variants, the new vehicle sets the standard in its segment.
Mercedes-Benz V-Class – the successful MPV
With its unique concept that combines the functionality of a conventional van with the typical strengths of a Mercedes-Benz sedan, the V-Class today delights customers in around 90 countries. Its stylish design, high level of comfort and diverse individualisation options suiting different needs give the V-Class a unique position in the MPV segment worldwide. In its first full year on the market in 2015, sales rose by 20 percent to around 30,700 vehicles (previous year: 25,600) – a new record. Also as far as the V-Class is concerned, fleet customers and large-scale orders from all over the world are playing an ever greater role, with growth of around 59 percent in the past year alone.
The Mercedes-Benz Vans division
Mercedes-Benz Vans is a global full-line supplier of vans and related services. Alongside the large van Sprinter and the mid-size van Vito, the division's worldwide product portfolio includes the Mercedes-Benz Citan urban delivery van. Mercedes-Benz Vans is also represented in the private segment with the V-Class MPV and the Marco Polo and Marco Polo ACTIVITY camper vans. The division has a total of nine production locations: in Germany, Spain, the USA and Argentina as well as the joint venture Fujian Benz Automotive Co., Ltd in China and the strategic alliance with Renault-Nissan in France. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Classic is built under contract by partner GAZ in Russia. To date, the division's main markets, accounting for a total of 65 percent of unit sales in 2015, have been in western Europe. As part of the "Mercedes-Benz Vans goes global" growth strategy, the division is also increasingly opening up the growth markets of South America and Asia, as well as the Russian market, by initiating locally adapted sales and production activities.
Mercedes-Benz Vans achieved the best opening quarter in its history in 2016. In line with record unit sales, revenues also scaled a new all-time high, up by 17 percent to 2.8 billion euros. At 301 million euros (previous year: 215 million), the division's EBIT also hit a new high. The entire product range of Mercedes-Benz Vans contributed to these record sales. The division anticipates further growth for the rest of 2016. Mercedes-Benz Vans had already reported record unit sales, revenues and EBIT in the 2015 financial year.
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