Daimler-Benz has traded its traditional flexibility for a leaner assembly line for the new Mercedes-Benz S-class.
Daimler invested DM250 million ($152 million) in a new dedicated body line for the S-class at its huge Sindelfingen plant in Germany.
The old body shop could assemble any of the three cars built at Sindelfingen: the S-, E- and C-class.
The new line is less complex and 'on the whole less capital intensive,' said Wolfgang Bernhard, vice president of S-class assembly.
Bernhard has been responsible for the launch of the car in Sindelfingen.
One innovation is the use of glue to give extra rigidity to the car for crash performance and handling. The line uses 73 meters of glue on each body.
'We're very pleased with this,' said Bernhard.
Daimler would have had to use 20kg of steel plate to achieve the same effect, he said.
The change is expected to result in higher efficiency and lower costs, said Bernhard.
The new philosophy will also be applied to the C- and E-class when they are redesigned. On the trim line, 'there is much less equipment that is designed just for one car,' said Bernhard, 'so it doesn't make sense to dedicate a line. The new S-class is still assembled alongside the C-class' there.
Daimler-Benz invested just DM80 million in modifications to the trim line for the new S-class.
Production of the new car began in July and was at 100 per day by mid-September. Full production of 320 cars a day is expected by year end, but Daimler has already decided to raise capacity by 40 a day. The additional capacity is expected to be available in March.