Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will launch 10 new models for the Indian market this year and it has so far launched the new S-Class. We speak to Eberhard Kern, Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz India and find out what are the company's plans, when it comes to localising and increasing the Chakan plant's production output. Kunal Kelkar speak to Eberhard and finds out more about this.
Q.What is the progress on the expansion of the factory?
A.The factory is in it's final stage of expansion. The Mercedes-Benz India factory is a state of the art plant here in Chakan. The plant should be completed and up and running by the end of the 1st quarter.
Q.Will the A-Class or the B-Class be added to the assembly line anytime soon?
A. Like mentioned earlier, the factory is now in the final stage of production. As of now we have not decided as to what products will be added the assembly line. By the end of the first quarter you can be sure that more than one product will be added to the assembly line here at Chakan.
Q. Will the new S-Class be assembled in India, if so, when can we see the new Indian assembled S-classes in the showrooms?
A. The S500 Long will be assembled in India as a CKD unit. The 4.6 litre V8 petrol engine will also be assembled in India at the Force India plant in Pune and that will be the first 8 cylinder engine to be assembled in locally. The first S-class that will be locally assembled would be seen sometime in March this year. Shortly after than one can expect to see the 350 CDI V6 engine variants for the model as well.
Q. Will the S-class get the "Distronic Plus" System in India?
A. The S-class comes with the Distronic Plus but because it runs on Radar frequency, that is a frequency we are not allowed to use in India, so hence this feature will not be available on the Indian S-class models. We are slowly working towards getting the technology to India.
Mr. Eberhard Kern also reiterated that 85% of the business comes from locally assembled cars and hence they are pushing for the plant expansion latest by the end of the first quarter. He also said that as Mercedes-Benz India policy they don't share pre-planning goals, but he did state that expect double digit growth this year as this is the Year of Excellence.