Mercedes-Benz Pekan Celebrates 100,000th Milestone

MERCEDES-Benz Malaysia (MBM) recently rolled off its 100,000th vehicle at its Pekan assembly plant in Pahang, which is clearly a significant milestone for a premium car brand. This might have been achieved over a 15-year span but it endorses the fact that premium car owners here have fully embraced the top quality of the locally assembled Mercedes-Benz range.

The Pekan plant produces five models with 13 variants and they include the C-Class, E-Class, S-Class, GLC and Mercedes-AMG models. Adding another feather to the plant’s 15th year anniversary celebration is the production of a left hand drive C-Class – the C 180 – for export to the Philippines.

This is the first LHD car for a Mercedes production plant in the region and reflects a definite recognition of the quality cars that are rolled off from this Pekan premises. The LHD C 180 is an Avantgarde model with 9G-Tronic transmission that delivers 114kW (156hp) and 250Nm and accelerates to 100km/h in 8.6 seconds. Features include 17-inch five-twin spoke alloy wheels, Android Auto and Apple Carplay and 10.25-inch media display. Its export started in August.

Continuous updates over the years to the plant’s assembly procedures and equipment involving more than RM300 million, along with stringent safety checks along the assembly line, has raised the standard of the plant’s production quality and efficiency. Besides marking a new chapter for MBM’s strategy, the Philippine export initiative is said to signify the start of similar initiatives within the SEA (Southeast Asian) region.

President and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of MBM, Dr Claus Wiedner said this move supported Malaysia’s international trade industry within the SEA region. “The export of our best-selling limousine, the C-Class, to the Philippines allows us to extend our expertise and enhance Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s brand image regionally,” he added.

On the plant’s 100,000th vehicle roll-out in August, he said it testified to the growing trust and demand of Malaysians in Mercedes-Benz products. “As a leading premium brand, Mercedes-Benz is committed to continuously redefine the mobility landscape in Malaysia. We achieve the highest engineering standards in producing locally assembled vehicles without compromising on safety, technology, design and quality.”

To further support this, he said: “As we set to expand our production volumes, we have undertaken technological upgrades at the plant to enhance our ability to cater to a more robust production portfolio and contribute towards an increased market share of Mercedes-Benz vehicles locally and regionally.”

This was celebrated in the opening of a new three-line assembly base that would take over from the current two-and-a-half line premises that are still in operation. Patrick Baur, Vice President, Production Plant, MBM, said the assembly process would be gradually moved to the new lines over the next few months.

During a recent media visit to the plant to partake in its anniversary celebration, we were introduced to new equipment and procedures that are expected to step up production quality and efficiency. Manual assembly accounts for most of the procedures and each vehicle is put through a four-stage control system executed at various points of the assembly line.

In this respect, MBM said that ‘Mercedes-Benz as a brand empowers all its 1300 well-qualified local engineers and manufacturing employees with knowledge on innovative technologies and latest methods of quality control to ensure all vehicles produced adheres to the stringent requirements set by Mercedes-Benz Cars’.

Currently, MBM’s Pekan plant, which is spread over 895,000sq m land area with 339,000sq m built up, is supported by a fairly large local content supply network. Located in the adjacent Pekan Industrial Park are ZF Chassis Systems and Yanfeng Automotive Interior Systems.

ZF Chassis Systems provides locally assembled systems for the front and rear axles, and makes 110 ‘shipments’ a month to the MBM plant. Yanfeng’s monthly shipments are a lot higher at 380 and this company puts together cockpit assemblies, door panels and door modules.

The Pekan plant receives 700 container loads of CKD (complete knock down) kits a month from Daimler AG via Port Klang, seat assemblies from Lear Automotive in Tanjung Malim, Perak (110 monthly shipments) and harnesses from DEM Draexlmaeir Automotive System in Ipoh, Perak (44 shipments).

A supplier appointed in April this year is Sitics Logistics Solutions, which is also located in the Pekan Industrial Park. As the logistics service provider, it supplies 530 shipments a month to the MBM plant.

A fresh plant procedure is the New Door Sub Assembly that is designed for varying output flex line and capable of multiple models per line. This is to enable quick and flexible model changes, and is compatible to all Mercedes-Benz models. It uses special design manipulators for door assembly that conforms to the latest technology in the CKD network.

Another detail is the new just-in-sequence Warenkorb Logistics Concept that is designed to provide the highest efficiency and best quality. It is said to use specialty knowledge in the Mercedes-Benz production system (MPS) with trolleys being designed and produced in-house as part of the continuous improvement process in the Pekan plant.

The bodyshop and paintshop areas also see several updates. The Medium Frequency Welding Gun in the bodyshop is described as one of the world’s latest welding network technology in the automotive industry. It is designed with smart controller to forge about 2800 spot points per car. MBM says this safeguards the product quality for daily production.

There is the RHD (right hand drive) and LHD flexibility line that has exchangeable jigs, exclusively designed to enable the integration of RHD and LHD C-Class in serial production. MBM said this design facilitated the resilience of jigs convertible for both RHD and LHD without major interruption.

A third area is the new fully automated paintshop that provides 10 robotic arms with up to 12 different colours ‘delivering world class service through exceeding customer requirements’. This is supported by the E-shuttle, described as the first technology in Asean that allows the body to rotate 360 degrees for better paint application.

The final station of the plant visit was the Assembly Shop that sees a ‘marriage’ of sorts. Called the New Marriage Concept, it is the latest in CKD technology for the ‘marriage’ of the vehicle powertrain to the body. This new method allows the entire powertrain of the vehicle to be lifted in one process to improve cycle time tremendously and quality. EC Tools with electrical transducers are also used in this process to ensure all safety relevant tightening is safe and secure.

The Pekan plant has been producing hybrid vehicles since 2014, which is seen as a major step towards Mercedes-Benz’s continuous mission and effort to reach zero emission. In this respect, Dr Wiedner also mentioned the company’s Ambition 2039, its sustainable business strategy.

The target is a carbon-neutral new car fleet in 20 years, representing a transformation period of within fewer than three product cycles. He said carbon-neutral car production would begin in Europe in 2022 with other plants to follow. This is to inspire Mercedes-Benz customers towards carbon-neutral mobility.

Yet another proud claim at the Pekan plant is the use of the Semi-Automatic Wheel Alignment machine. MBM said its Malaysian plant was one of the first CKD countries to use this machine, which ensured ‘perfect quality and benchmark efficiency’ for all the different Mercedes-Benz models.

The Mercedes-Benz tag line is ‘The Best or Nothing’ and this German car brand is not holding back any punches when it comes to quality vehicle production in Pekan. With more than 80 per cent of current Mercedes-Benz car sales in Malaysia comprising CKD models, it best reflects the wide acceptance of the quality cars rolling off from this MBM plant.