Mercedes can meet downturn without layoffs, production boss Bernhard says
Bernhard: "Wait and see" on second North American plant.
GENEVA -- Daimler's Mercedes-Benz car division can cope with a potential slump in demand in an economic downturn without reducing its core staff because of its flexible production system, the automaker's purchasing and production chief Wolfgang Bernhard told Automotive News Europe.
"We could absorb fluctuations in demand of 25 percent at any time," Wolfgang Bernhard said in an interview on the sidelines of the Geneva auto show.
Bernhard said the automaker would not need to implement short-time working or reduce its core staff even if demand slumps to that extent.
Mercedes is closely watching rival automakers and the economy, he said. "Our Mercedes-Benz 2020 strategy includes a continuous ramp up of capacity. We think carefully about every step. Each new plant has to last for at least 25 years."
New North America plant
Bernhard did not confirm a report in a German magazine that Mercedes is considering opening a second car production plant in North America. "Let's wait and see," he said.
Mercedes' agreement with Nissan to produce four-cylinder gasoline engines at Nissan's U.S. plant in Decherd, Tennessee, in 2014 for the new C-class and future Infiniti models was an important move to help counter currency fluctuations, Bernhard said.
In January, Manager Magazin said Daimler plans to build a new factory with Nissan in either the United States or Mexico by 2017 or 2018 to build the A class. The magazine cited Daimler executives as sources.
Bernhard said Mercedes will build its new A- and B-class premium compact cars in China as well as in Europe, but a date to start production has not been set yet.
Waiting times for B-class deliveries to customers is three months, Bernhard said. "We cannot produce that car as fast as we can sell it," he said.
The new B class went on sale in November. The A class will arrive in European showrooms in September and will go on sale in China next year and in the United States in 2014.