GRAZ, Austria - Thanks to the M-class project in Austria, Daimler-Benz and Chrysler engineers have already started working together.
Production experts from both companies are meeting regularly with engineers from Magna-Steyr. They are deciding how to add 30,000 M-class units to the Jeep Grand Cherokee building at Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik AG.
'Naturally this possibility to integrate part of the assembly into the assembly of Chrysler's Jeep Grand Cherokee has only become possible thanks to the creation of Daimler-Chrysler,' said Rudolf Aita, vice president for technology at Magna-Steyr.
The M-class will be assembled in the same building as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Although most work will be done on an adjacent line, the presence of the M-class disrupts what had been planned for the new model of the Grand Cherokee.
Magna-Steyr will begin building the new version for Chrysler's European and right-hand-drive markets on 11 January 1999. Within a few months afterward, the M-class will start assembly.
'The M-class will be primarily assembled on a new side line,' said Aita. 'The Jeep has a self-supporting body structure, while the M-class has a box frame on which the body is mounted.' In addition, the Jeep has a stiff rear axle and the M-class has independent rear suspension.
'The final stages of assembly and finishing, as well as final testing, will be done on a separate new branch line that has to be built. Naturally we are trying to keep investment as low as possible,' Aita said.
The factory had a two-shift capacity of 65,000 units. The Jeep is expected to take up to 45,000 units a year, and the M-class will take the rest and more.
Magna-Steyr hopes to manage with only two shifts, adding 300 workers to the 900 now producing the Jeep. If necessary a third shift could be installed.
A recently completed new paint shop has capacity for 160,000 units on three shifts, which will easily handle the Jeep and M-class output as well as the 8,000 Mercedes /Puch G-Wagen sport-utilities and 17,000 Mercedes-Benz E-4matics built by Magna-Steyr.
For the E-4matic and G-Wagen, Daimler-Benz asked Magna Steyr to handle the logistics for obtaining parts.
Chrysler sources all parts itself and hands them over to Magna Steyr, which is what Daimler will do for the M-class.