The dangerous race of the Berlin Mercedes: an economical engine

Berlin’s industrial monument fluctuates. The Mercedes engine plant in Marienfeld, where production has been running since 1902, will lose its most important product in the foreseeable future: an internal combustion engine. The Stuttgart management has decided not to invest in this technology anymore. On Thursday afternoon, the plant’s management wants to inform workers about plans for an open-air meeting in Marienfeld. This concerns approximately 2,500 employees. Together with the Siemens factories, the Stadler train manufacturer in Pankowo and the BMW motorcycle factory in Spandau, the motor plant is one of the few large industrial employers in the city. In the autumn of 2002, on the occasion of his 100th birthday in Marienfeld, the then head of Daimler, Jürgen Schrempp, paid tribute to “an impressive work of German industrial history” in the presence of Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. This story must now be rewritten.

4,000 jobs were threatened in Stuttgart

Engines for Mercedes cars are manufactured in the so-called lead plant in Untertürkheim and Berlin. According to preliminary plans, about 4,000 of the 18,500 jobs will be available in Untertürkheim by 2025, according to the “Stuttgarter Zeitung”. In return, the plant will be transformed into a “development and qualification site for electromobility”. Among other things, it is possible to produce battery cells on the Neckar. So far, Daimler, like other German car companies, is buying articles from Asian manufacturers. However, under the new CEO Ol Källeni, the importance of battery cells for electromobility was recognized. At present, cell production is being considered in Stuttgart, at least with partners. In 2019, Untertürkheim won a contract to manufacture an electric drive train. However, there now appear to be consideration of locating at least part of this production capacity abroad for cost reasons.

200,000 jobs depend on the internal combustion engine

Employment around the internal combustion engine is most affected by the transition to electric mobility. Electric cars are less complex and therefore cheaper to manufacture, so that of the approximately 200,000 workers who make a living from powertrain production in this country, much of them will lose their usual jobs.

According to the company, the Berlin plant manufactures components “with technologies to reduce CO2 emissions”. This includes the Camtronic engine management system. “With this variable valve setting system, this location acts as a competence center in the global powertrain production network,” says Daimler. It will soon be a thing of the past. In contrast, the “installation of an electric drive module for EQ product and technology vehicles” is one of the areas of the Berlin plant that should survive the transformation.

Daimler wants to save two billion

In terms of the transition to electromobility, Daimler is even later than BMW and Volkswagen / Audi. The costly switch to electronic cars and the drop in sales in the first months of the Corona virus led to a tightening of the ongoing renovation program at the end of July, which now wants Daimler to save a total of two billion euros a year. Among other things, the weekly working hours of Daimler employees in administration and production-related areas will be reduced by two hours for one year without compensation. The profit sharing for 2020 will not apply to all employees and the commonly agreed bonus will not be paid in 2021, but will be transferred to days off. Overall, this saves Daimler 5.7 percent in employee labor costs.

170,000 employees in Germany

At the same time, in the group, which has around 300,000 employees, of which around 170,000 are in Germany, there will be no redundancies in Germany until the end of this decade. Downsizing works only in a socially acceptable way – by voluntarily resigning to paying severance pay or partial retirement. In addition, vacancies are not filled.

“Target images” for each location

Daimler’s works council said on Wednesday that in the coming weeks and months, management will develop “target images” for German jobs: what investments are waiting for which products and how many jobs will actually be lost. “We are now launching a discussion,” the works council said, “including alternatives to the internal combustion engine.”

This sounds like an announcement from the company’s management. “For the Untertürkheim site and other powertrain sites, ways are being developed to transform the added value of the transformation.” “Other sites” are Hamburg, where axles are made, and Marienfelde. The industrial history there began in 1902 with the production of marine and marine engines.

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