Mercedes Benz had organized an exclusive event for the online community last month at their CKD facility in Chakan, Pune. The entire days program included interaction with the management, plant visit and a chance to get behind the wheel with the entire lineup at disposal, including the AMG’s. I look back at what was a satisfying days work for me.
Mercedes Benz first started operations way back in 1954. At that time, Daimler Group had collaborated with the Tata Motors’ and were supplying engines for Tata Benz trucks. In 1969, Mercedes started supplying Force Motors with engines. Independent operations started in 1995 with the sale of the E Class. The S Class and the C Class were next on the list in the year 2000 and 2001 respectively. Today, the company assembles these models in India while others like the GL, ML, R Class and the AMG’s are available as a CBU. The plant is an hour’s drive from Pune city but travel time can vary subject to traffic, which is insane in Pune. First up, we headed for interactions with the management.
Mercedes Benz India CEO, Mr. Peter Honegg took over the baton from Mr. Wilfred Aulbur in early 2011. He may come across as reasonably reserved person, get talking to him and its another story altogether. A cheerful and funny guy, Mr. Honegg will joke with a serious face will catch you off guard on more occasions than one. Among others present were Mr. Debashis Mitra, Head of Sales and marketing, Mr. Devdutta Chandavarkar, Director After Sales, Mr. Suhas Kadlaskar, Director, Corporate Affairs, Human Resources & IT. The plant visit was conducted my Mr. Piyush Arora, Techincal Director.
Mercedes Benz have confirmed to us & we have already reported that they will soon be launching the B Class Sport Tourer. The ML and GL Class will soon be available as CKD units and this is bound to boost sales as prices will be more competitive. I asked Mr. Honegg the reason BMW has taken over the numero uno spot in the luxury segment despite Mercedes Benz having a longer stint in India! In his reply Mr. Honegg stated that apples to apples, both the companies are doing relatively the same sales figures with most of the models, its the BMW X1 which has no competitor from the Mercedes garage. The GLK, available in Europe, is currently only in the left hand drive configuration and Mercedes is working to bring their X1 competitor, GLC to India next year. He also added that Mercedes had imported about 16 C63 AMG cars to showcase the sporty package to the customers and they have already sold 6 cars out of the lot. The AMG driving academy is another platform to showcase the sporty and performance front of Mercedes cars. How many of you know why the ML Class is called so? Simple, BMW owns the copyright for ‘M’, as in M3 and M5, so Mercedes has added the ‘L’ to differentiate it.
Mercedes Benz also runs a Mechatronics training insititute which trains people about the complex electronic and mechanical systems in the car. Naturally, these people are hired by competitors in the long run, but put into their own words, they believe in training more individuals rather than trying to keep them away from competitors.
We also got a chance to see the functioning of the plant with detailed explanations about each step. This facility in Chakan it voted as the World’s Best Plant outside Germany, which speaks volumes about the way things are done here. The E, C and S Class models are assembled here.
Large crates which contain knocked down parts are shipped from Germany and are assembled together. These are imported by sea in containers which are brought to the factory from Jawaharlal Nehru Port, 90 km away from the plant.
Engines are assembled by Force Motors and transported to the Mercedes plant. Components are shipped to Force Motors from Germany.
The parts are weld together first. Random cars are selected from each batch for a complete computerised evaluation. After the welding process is complete, the body shell is sent for painting.
Cars are checked under specially placed lamps to detect any scratches or damages in the paint process. If any issue is to be found, it is repainted.
Customers have an option to customise the upholstry. This is done at the time of booking the vehicle.
After the engine is mounted and tires are fitted, strict checks are made to check for the consistency in panel gaps. In the above picture, panel gaps are checked with the help of with a refernce key.
High pressure shower test is performed to check for any leakage into the cabin.
Finally the star sits pretty on the hood.
The entire lineup besides the G wagon and SLS AMG were at our disposal. Having driven most of the cars in the past, my mission for the day was to get behind the wheel of the C63 AMG and SL63 AMG. I did have a spin in the SL350 but nothing compares to the adrenaline rush the 6.3 ltr V8 engine has to offer.
The C63 AMG is perhaps the best AMG car for the track. Having driven the E63 AMG on the Buddh International Circuit at the beginning of the year, i know for sure, the C63 would have been much more fun around the track. It’s light and nimble, and is obedient with steering inputs. On the contrary the E63 is heavy and has a definite amount of body roll, try to be too optimistic with her and it can take you to hell. However, driving on the track and on public roads is a a completely different ball game altogether.
Powered by a 6.3 litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, the C63 AMG churns out 457 bhp of peak power at 600 Nm torque. It hits 100 kmph from 0 in 4.4 seconds and has the engine soundtrack get the adrenaline pumping. Since we were on public roads, i choose to drive in a conservative manner but the C63 was my pick when it comes to the AMG cars.
The SL63 AMG is more powerful as compared to the C63 but is heavier too. It produces 537 Bhp of power and a breathtaking 800 Nm torque. It is 0.1 seconds faster to 100 kmph as compared to the C63 AMG. The engine note is heard best here if you are driving in topless mode.
The SL350 produces a modest 316 bhp of power and takes a little over 8 seconds to get to the 100 kmph mark. It will not give you the kick the AMG’s offer but it will surely get you noticed. It is the ideal for routine driving if you believe in shedding the roof once in a while.
It was a “Star” studded day for me. I will leave you with a short video, turn up the volume, relish the sound of the V8 and Drive safe.
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZZ8iYt2zuo 540 375]