Daimler in talks to sell French Hambach plant
Daimler plans to sell its plant in Hambach, France, where they build the Smart electric vehicles. In 2018, Daimler had announced that the factory would also make a compact model of the electric car brand EQ, presumably the EQB.
Where Daimler will produce said EQB in future is still unclear, in light of the news. In 2017, the Mercedes plant in Rastatt had already been awarded the contract to build EQ compact class vehicles, presumably the EQA. It is conceivable that in future both EQA and EQB will come off the production line in Rastatt. Still, until now, Daimler has never officially stated clearly which of the EQ compact models will be produced in Hambach and which in Rastatt. The fact that the EQB was initially planned in Hambach and the EQA in Rastatt is only available from unconfirmed third-party sources such as the Mercedes blog.
Meanwhile, the Automobilwoche brings a different reading into play. The portal speculates that the EQB could be built exclusively in the Chinese Mercedes factory in Beijing instead of in Hambach and then imported to Europe. Also the Smart models will reportedly be made together with Geely in China in future.
Either way, Daimler says the reason for the planned sale of the Hambach plant is to improve the company’s cost structure and to adjust capacities within its worldwide manufacturing. According to Daimler CEO Ola Källenius, the Covid-19 crisis also contributed to the decision: The effects of the pandemic led to new conditions in the market – “and in this context, we are optimizing our global production network,” he said.
The Daimler plant in Hambach has been in operation since 1997 and currently employs around 1,600 people. Since 2019, the site has been producing the fourth generation of smart electric vehicles, the Smart EQ fortwo and the Smart EQ fortwo Cabrio. According to the company, more than two million Smart fortwo vehicles have rolled off the production line at the French plant to date. Board member Markus Schäfer emphasizes that the task now is to secure the future of the site and “The current smart models will continue to be produced in Hambach,” he added.
Only in January, Daimler had set a date for Smart production to start in China where they will introduce the first fully electric Smart models from 2022 onwards after which European production of the small car will be phased out. Back then, Daimler had said the Hambach plant would produce the above-mentioned electric EQ model as a kind of compensation – this future may now be in jeopardy.