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100 years of the Daimler location in Sindelfingen: visit to mark the anniversary

Achim Hartmann
100 years of the Daimler location in Sindelfingen
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K Hard, dry and Swabian, the comment bursts open the iconic golden metallic paint of the Mercedes 280 SE: 'For such gaps they would put you in the lace today', Günther Braun is sure. He works in the body shell of the S-Class together with foreman colleague Karl-Josef Teufel - and he in turn brought the W116 generation of the luxury sedan to the wheel. The one that also includes the 280 SE. 'There was still a lot of manual work involved,' says Teufel.

'We applied the welding seams by hand.' The first fully automatic robot transfer line went into operation especially for the W116 in September 1972. Twelve of these machines took care of the side walls of the S-Class. There were no more robots in the entire plant at that time. Today there are 5150.

That may be an important episode in the history of the Sindelfingen location, but it is just one episode. The time span of the existence of the plant is so extensive - 100 years, my goodness, what's not going on there!

100 years of Daimler in Sindelfingen: scars on history

Just two terrible ones World wars leave scars on history, plus a global economic crisis, against which the current debacle in Greece seems like a funny story from the Sparkasse's Knax booklet. Then someone turns off the big oil faucet, others mistake their daily work in the bank for a game of blackjack and gamble away tens of billions, dollars or euros, that doesn't matter anymore. There are also various disputes between Daimler management and the workforce. It revolves around production cuts and relocations, strikes are often inevitable.

However, all of this prevents the makers at the location from fulfilling their main tasks at best for a short time: developing and building cars. Exactly 367,313 cars left the halls in 2014. Yes, it was well over 400,000, but more on that later. Around 37,000 employees are currently taking care of this on an area of ​​over 50 hectares. And those of them who encounter the old S-Class will not leave them indifferent. Not the experienced masters Teufel and Braun, neither young apprentices nor Axel Hediger.

As Head of Small Series Assembly, he is responsible for the production of the AMG GT, the rear-wheel-driven Wüterich that is currently on the sports car scenestirs up. 'As with the S-Class back then, we can now manage almost entirely without robots,' says Hediger, who has already accompanied the SLS through its life cycle. 'Although the GT appeals less to collectors than the SLS, but rather real sports car users and fights for buyers in a lower price segment, we place a lot of value on manual work,' explains the manager.

Mercedes AMG GT production far away from mass production

The two-seater is being built on the second floor of Building 3/10 - on an area that is used in the production of the E-Class alone for the 'marriage', i.e. the merging of the body and drive. In contrast to the high-volume models, the workers have to perform up to ten times more tasks per station, with extra qualifications through more extensive training.

Stress? But nobody comes up, because the belt does not keep running, but stands at the stations. And what's more: in order to save space, the body is even removed from the assembly line for the wedding. And that's exactly where the problem is, because the crane is currently uncomfortable. Technicians work on a solution with reasonable hectic pace. The low degree of automation enables a high degree of flexibility. “With the SLS, we were able to manufacture the Black Series variant on the same line without any problems, even though it was very different from the base,” explains Hediger. So so. Which variants of the GT does he intend to produce? “No comment” - of course.

Oh yes, a robot hums in the hall, it applies the adhesive for the panes and the optional glass or carbon roof. Hediger anticipates the question with his answer: 'The machine can do that much faster and more precisely.' Carbon? A material from the book of fables during the lifetime of the W116. Glass, yes, the limousine has plenty of it, but not tinted because the first owner saved the surcharge of 276.85 marks.

He saved a lot, only treated himself to the 185 hp injection engine, plus the four-speed automatic, the right exterior mirror and ordered the color code 416 - icon gold metallic, which is actually no alternative for this series. Only icon gold succeeds in gracefully completing the chrome-plated double bumper abundance of the 116.

So the sedan remains the only splash of color in and between the dreary halls, the dreariness of which does not penetrate the lattice boxes, their green and orange fade heavily. Even the 26-meter-high, glazed and covered bridge between buildings 7/4 and 8, which was inaugurated in 2003, has at best the role of an architectural bloom, even though it is only used for the elegant S-Class bodies sneaking from the shell to the paint shop. There, robots spray around 25.5 kilograms of material from the primer to the clear coat, after drying around 15.3 kilograms remain.

Center of Excellence for individual wishes of solvent customers

The courage to use color also seems to have dried up a lot since the 70s. It almost looks a bit like in the 30s: black dominates , interrupted by bland leasing silver and white. In the Center of Excellence it could be more colorful, because there specialists realize their most unusual requests with particularly solvent customers. Originally the representative building on the less representative Käsbrünnlestrasse was built for the luxury brand Maybach, which is currently its third Get a chance.

And today you want to stay to yourself. Doesn't matter. The 280 SE with its sonorous, smoky sounding inline six-cylinder engine scurries through the branching network of roads, encountering various Unimogs and Actros, which are called Locomotives drag several trailers across the site at the same time.

Then the sedan pushes its mighty radiator grille on a row of S-Class coupés past who doze in the sun in front of a hall, without a license plate, for whatever reason. The convertible will be added in a few weeks, there is always money in the world somewhere. The annual production is unlikely to increase to a new record high, which the management wanted. Sindelfingen is to be led into a profitable future as a production location for the upper and luxury class, enriched by the research and development competence of the group. The C-Class only rolls out of the gate of the customer center after it has been handed over to the buyer, but no longer off the assembly line. That ended in 2014. The E-Class has remained, and the upcoming model change will not change anything. Probably because of the plan to visit their production facility with the 280 SE - all terribly secret.

Quality control? No problem for our W116

So another throttle ensures that the iconic golden hood lifts slowly. The limousine drifts across the huge area, past the safety fences, to the development departments, sees workers pausing in front of the buildings talking, gesturing, eating. If the snack box from 'dahoim' does not provide energy, then one of the 11 in-house restaurants or one of the 16 kiosks. Around 11,000 meals a day keep the motivation of the employees high, preferably Swabian lentils with spaetzle and string sausages - pure culinary local patriotism.

During the break, the W116 smuggles its way onto the final inspection line, between its great-great-great-grandchildren, sometimes with a short, sometimes with a long wheelbase, sometimes with a Maybach design. Right at the front: a white limousine. The color, S550 lettering and position lights reveal its target market: USA. The export brings money into the coffers, China is currently sucking the Maybach supply empty.

The W116 effortlessly manages the strict quality control - solely due to the fact that it comes to itSympathies, but who cares. A few S-Classes are waiting for small repairs, while the models that have been found to be good shoot out of the hall practically every minute. Horn briefly in front of it, because that has to work too. Once again, the 116 feels like a new car, although it is well known that nothing is as it once was, and certainly not at all in a huge industrial facility like this one. Finding places that look like they did 50 or even 100 years ago? Excluded.

Next, it hits the administration building at Gate 3, on the roof of which the characteristic star shines: The roof will be torn down shortly. The research and development area has grown continuously since the 1970s. Various simulators, more or less extensive, were added to simplify and accelerate processes. A climatic wind tunnel has been bringing the world's temperature zones to Sindelfingen since 2011.

New car collection for customers since 1953

Already since In 1953, customers can pick up their new Mercedes themselves at the factory, and in 1981 a customer center was opened for this purpose. Although renovated and modernized several times, the building retains its rather brittle charm and resembles a modern town hall. Sandwiches are served in the restaurant next door. Before that, the new cars roll through a car wash, after all, every customer can pick up their car here, regardless of whether it comes from Sindelfingen or by truck from Bremen, Kecskemét or Hambach. The 280 SE is treating itself to a bath. Then the crew comes with the vacuum cleaners.

The two men at the automatic inflation machine for the tires behind let the classic car pass - it lacks the barcode that dictates the correct pressure to the computer. Then the car rolls quietly through the workshop, where license plates, floor mats and water packets find their right place, and finally lands in the delivery hall.

It's the classic car that fills it with glamor. No E-Class can do it this way, no CLA, not even the white S-Class Coupé. Martin Foehl, Head of Vehicle Delivery, is amazed at his employees and customers who adore the W116. 'I can't do much with it. It's just old sheet metal. I just like the safety and comfort of the new vehicles,' he comments tough, dry - and a bit Swabian.

Then he strokes the car a few times, opens the doors, closes them again. 'How tired they fall into the castle! That impresses me.' Have a look.

New old car or old new car?

Mercedes is taking off sales again after three years Old and young timers. The Mercedes-Benz Museum GmbH is responsible for this. The vehicles on offer (by the way, no longer exclusively rated one) are in the passage between the branch and the museum.The iconic golden 280 SE, first registered in March 1973, can also be viewed there. The limousine has just 85,550 kilometers on the clock. Just as low: the number of special equipment. The price is not that low: 21,990 euros. Further information at: www.mercedes-benz.com/fahrzeughandel

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