Unlike some of my colleagues, I don’t get called into the Deputy Editor’s cabin; at least not as often as all of them. I like to think that it is because of the reason that I probably stick to the prescribed work-guidelines more closely than the others and this does not gives a chance to my boss to reprimand me. You were taken in! Weren’t you? Of course I am pleasing myself letting you know something like this which is far from absolute truth, but let it be that way since it flatters my vanity and helps me survive the daily grind.
I was pleasantly surprised though when my boss called me into his office the other day and asked me if I would you like to go to the event at the Mercedes plant in Pune, they are inaugurating their expanded facility, he told. I had never been to any event like this before and I said “Yes” – peremptorily, hiding my excitement as best as I could. A chance to break away from the daily routine, finally! (I thought to myself).
Mercedes’ only plant in India, at Chakan, near Pune is spread over lush 100 acres area. The plant which until the new facility got operational had a manufacturing capacity of 10,000 units annually. The capacity has now been doubled and stands at 20,000 units.
The company has invested over 1000 crores in the production facility since its set up in the year 2009. The production facility at Chakan is also one of the fastest green-field operations that have been created by the company. The CKD (Completely Knock Down) plant in India is also rated among the top-most, globally.
The company started the year on a high note by bringing in six new cars as CBUs (Completely Built Units) – CLA-Class, C 220 CDI, new B-Class, E-Class Cabriolet, CLS 250 CDI and the S600 Guard. Among the ones mentioned above, the product portfolio also includes S-Class, E-Class, C-Class sedans and GL-Class and M-Class SUVs which are now assembled locally like the new GLA-Class.
The product portfolio of the company also includes – A-Class and SLK-Class which are imported as CBUs like the few others. Mercedes-Benz also inaugurated their highly exclusive AMG performance centres in Pune and Hyderabad this year. There are now five such performance centres across the country.
The GLA which would now be assembled locally at the Phase II production facility will cost substantially less (2 lakh approximately) than the imported car. The car uses a 2-litre diesel engine that is capable of producing 136bhp and peak torque of 300Nm. It enables the car to touch the 100kmph mark in less than 10 second (9.9 seconds to be precise). One of the most notable features of the car is its fuel efficiency (17.9kmpl). The Eco Start / Stop function that helps deliver the car such impressive figures comes as standard across all variants.
The Phase II production facility makes use of the technologically advanced Synchronized Conveyor Systems and latest generation PLC control units for all equipment. This gives it the capability and flexibility to manufacture any car using the same production lines.
The production lines are split-up into two – Mechanical Lines and Trim Lines. The Mechanical Lines is where the Marriage between the body and mechanical parts (engine, transmission, suspension etc.) takes place. Whereas on the Trim line, the dashboard assembly, wire harness and other interior equipment is fit onto the body shell.
Some of the other notable features of the new production facility are – EMS Transfer, X-road-Dynamic testing, Car Programming and Shower testing cabin.
Even though I am a tech buff and like to know everything about the technology that goes into making a piece of machine. But, all these guided tours begin to bore if one does not get a chance to ride in what it is capable of producing.
Couldn’t come to Mercedes-Benz plant as its employee but am glad could at least visit it as motoring correspondent. Surrounded by such ineluctable beauties all day, just when I was leaving, I was tempted to ask someone at the plant with enough authority – Can I take one home? Couldn’t muster the courage though.
However, just after the event ended and everyone began to leave, I was lucky enough to get a seat in the GLA for a 30-kilometer ride to the airport. A dream came true, if only a little.