Mercedes confirms CLA production at Rastatt plant
The purely electric CLA from Mercedes-Benz, presented as a concept at the IAA, will initially be built at the German plant in Rastatt, Mercedes’ head of production, Jörg Burzer, tells Automobilwoche. “The CLA will start in the middle of the decade as the first vehicle on the MMA platform in Rastatt,” Burzer says. The production model will be presented in 2024, as announced at the IAA in Munich, and production in Rastatt will start in 2025. However, Burzer does not specify the start of production further.
Rastatt will be the first, but not the only production location for the electric compact sedan: After the start of production in Rastatt, the CLA will also be built in the plants in Kekscemet (Hungary) and Beijing (China). Burzer does not specify when exactly this will be.
The Concept CLA Class presented in Munich is supposed to be at the production stage already. Mercedes promises a WLTP range of up to 750 kilometres and a consumption of only 12 kWh/100km for the study. The 800-volt architecture will be equipped with anodes with silicon oxide content for a particularly high energy density in the range-extending versions – Mercedes does not provide any information on the cathode. The entry-level version uses cells with LFP chemistry.
The study is not only seen as a preview of the CLA, but with the drive technology described, it will also form the basis for Mercedes’ upcoming compact model family, which will be based on the Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) platform. It is not a purely electric platform, but the “Electric First” principle applies – internal combustion engines are still possible. However, Mercedes has yet to give further details.
The new compact model family will thus shrink considerably – only four models are planned instead of the current seven. In addition to the CLA saloon and a shooting-brake offshoot, these will include the (primarily electric) successors to the GLA/EQA and GLB/EQB. The A-Class hatchback, the A-Class saloon and the B-Class will be dropped without replacement.
Since both the A- and B-Class are built in Rastatt, their demise is likely to impact employees at the site. However, Burzer sees no negative consequences for capacity utilisation: “Despite fewer models than before, I do not expect any impact on core employment. We are not leaving the segment. And we are convinced that we can inspire customers with the products.”
The current CLA generation as a combustion engine and plug-in hybrid is built for Europe in Kekscemet, where the GLB and the E-version EQB are also manufactured. Rastatt is responsible for the A- and B-Class, as well as the GLA, including EQA. So, there will be a change when the CLA range moves to the German plant. However, Burzer did not want to comment on further effects yet. “Apart from the CLA, we are not yet talking about where exactly which derivatives will be localised,” the production board member says.
Despite focusing on electric cars, Mercedes will continue to manufacture internal combustion engines, hybrids and BEVs on one line. The carmaker will invest in Rastatt for the MMA production; Burzer speaks of an “efficiency gain of around 20 per cent compared to the predecessor model” in terms of productivity. The experience gained from the flagship Factory 56 production in Sindelfingen (S-Class and EQS) will be transferred to other plants, especially concerning digitalisation.
A leap in productivity will also be possible thanks to the MB.OS operating system, which will be used in the new generation of vehicles. “Until now, functions have been uploaded to the ECUs before or after production. Now, we can apply updates in every production step, which brings us additional efficiency. This is the next leap on the production side,” says Burzer.