The first of the next-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class, a bright red hatchback, rolled off the production line at the Mercedes-Benz plant near the French border in Rastatt, Germany.
The completely revised A-Class, which made its debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March, is not only an integral part of Daimler AG’s strategy to maintain growth through the end of the decade, it’s the first of its line that will be sold in the North American market with an introduction planned for 2014, about a year after European deliveries begin.
The new A-Class is not only lower and sleeker, it will be offered in multiple body styles including a five-door hatchback and a four-door “coupe” and an SUV/crossover that are still in development.
“This start of production marks a further milestone in our Mercedes-Benz 2020 growth strategy. The A-Class represents our offensive in the compact segment”, said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG CEO and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “And there is more to come: The compact SUV will be the third model we will build here in Rastatt.”
Dr Wolfgang Bernhard, head of Mercedes-Benz manufacturing and procurement added: “We are on a roll in manufacturing as well: Hard on the heels of the new B-Class, we are now producing the totally new A-Class for our customers. Thanks to the joint architecture, we can flexibly produce all models of our new compacts on the same production line at the respective site.”
Daimler will invest around €1.2 billion ($1.47 billion) in the Rastatt plant for the production of the new A-Class and B-Class models. Close to €600 million ($737 million) has already been spent for construction of a new bodyshell building and for tools. The same amount is being through 2013 for a second wave of expansion. Another €400 million (about $492 million) will be invested in the engine plants and production of dedicated components for the compacts. Daimler says it has added 900 new permanent jobs at Rastatt since 2010, with 500 of those opened in 2012.
Since the start of sales in mid-June more than 40.000 customers have already ordered the new A-Class.
“Demand for our premium compact cars is so strong that we are going to to introduce a third assembly shift in October 2012″, said Peter Wesp, head of the Rastatt plant. “Our team in Rastatt is doing a fantastic job, and we are very proud of their achievements.” The number of trainee positions has been increased to 70 per year.
The A-Class starts at €23,978.50 in Germany, equivalent to $29,460.12 over here, but the German price includes a 19 percent VAT. Daimler has already said there won’t be a big price difference between the North American and German prices so, factoring out the VAT, a new A-Class could sell for as little as about $25,000 in the U.S.