RASTATT, Germany - Mercedes-Benz's Rastatt assembly plant will rely more on suppliers than any other German car plant when the new A class begins production in June.
Rastatt's level of in-house parts is 20-25 percent, according to a Mercedes spokesman. That compares with the 30-40 percent typical in German assembly plants.
Some out-sourced parts module operations are located inside Mercedes' own factory. Forty-eight percent of A class components will come from a supplier park adjacent to the assembly plant.
Mercedes wanted to reduce handling and transport costs and to improve the flow of information to and from suppliers. The Rastatt supplier park achieves both. It also makes it easier to assemble complex modules.
Three suppliers work inside the A class' body-in-white assembly hall. They are:
Bundy, maker of brake and fuel lines; Alusuisse, which supplies cross-members and airbags; and the Leistritz/Gillet exhaust system joint-venture operation. They each deliver modules to a section of the assembly line 600 meters away.
A total of 2,900 square meters of the assembly plant has been given over to the three suppliers and their 28 employees.
Seven other suppliers have set up in the supplier park adjacent to the assembly plant. The park is linked to the plant by an 80-meter bridge.
Most operations involve final assembly of modules. But the A class' carpets and doors are fabricated at Rastatt.
Almost all the suppliers are owned by non-Germans.
Leistritz is owned by the French supplier Ecia, and Gillet is part of US supplier Tenneco's Walker-Gillet subsidiary.
The car's interior is supplied largely by US-owned companies. Johnson Controls Inc. makes the seats, Magna makes the door trim and Becker Group supplies the instrument panel through its Fibrit subsidiary. Fibrit was acquired with Gebr Happich GmbH. Magna bought automotive carpetmaker Georg Naeher from German group DLW. Bundy is UK-owned and Alusuisse is Swiss.
The only German module suppliers are the privately-owned Woco Group and Radsystem, a 50-50 joint venture between Continental AG and Mannesmann Kronprinz AG, which was recently bought by Michelin SA. Woco supplies pedal modules. Radsystem makes tire and wheel combinations.
Rastatt's supplier park is the first established by Mercedes-Benz. The carmaker rents space to supplier companies. The 24,800 square meter area will accommodate 445 supplier employees.
The assembly plant itself will employ 3,800. It will make 180,000-200,000 cars a year.
The supplier park officially opens in May. The plant will reach full production at the beginning of 1998.