New Mercedes-Benz Sprinter launched at the Ludwigsfelde plant

* Symbolic launch of production today

* A total of €300 million invested in the expansion of the Ludwigsfelde plant

* Existing 1,500 jobs safeguarded; additional 500 to be created

* New Sprinter donated to non-profit youth project

Stuttgart/Ludwigsfelde, Jun 23, 2006
The first new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter officially rolled off the line today in Ludwigsfelde. DaimlerChrysler CEO and Mercedes Car Group head Dr. Dieter Zetsche, the premier of the state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck, and managing director of DaimlerChrysler Ludwigsfelde GmbH Dr. Heinrich Weiß all pushed the red button that symbolically marked the launch of Sprinter production at the plant, which is located south of Berlin.

“Ludwigsfelde successfully brings together the competitive advantages Eastern Germany offers the automotive industry,” said Zetsche. “This is the place where highly qualified, hard-working, loyal personnel are writing a new chapter in the long and successful history of car manufacturing – here at the bridgehead to the markets of Eastern Europe.”

Brandenburg’s premier, Matthias Platzeck, expressed his approval of what he called DaimlerChrysler’s “exemplary corporate policy.” He said that the Group has “used qualification programs to give formerly jobless people the opportunity to enter regular employment. The Group’s extraordinarily high number of trainees also demonstrates its tre-mendous commitment to the eastern states of Germany and the great contribution it is making to create opportunities for the young people in this part of the country.” Platzeck went on to say: “The rapidly growing region of Berlin-Brandenburg offers DaimlerChrysler a fruitful business environment. The state government of Brandenburg is doing its utmost to support the creation of networks and clusters, such as the supplier network ‘automotive BerlinBrandenburg.’”

The new Sprinter will be produced at the two German plants for the model in Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde. A completely new manufacturing line containing state-of-the-art automated production equipment was constructed for the model at the Ludwigsfelde plant, where flatbed vans and chassis are built. The Ludwigsfelde expansion also included new paint and body shops.

DaimlerChrysler invested a total of €1.8 billion in the development of the new model series. Top priority is being placed on exemplary workmanship and long-term production quality. A considerably greater proportion of sheet metal components are now galvanized as compared to the previous model. Meticulously seamed seals, application of stone chip primer in vulnerable areas, and undersealing likewise help to ensure long life and value retention. In addition, the Ludwigsfelde plant is now employing a new corrosion protection process known as RoDip (rotation dipping): In each pre-treatment bath, including the cataphoretic dip bath, the vehicle bodies are rotated a full 360 degrees on their transverse axes. This ensures uniform all-over coating of all sheet metal parts and cavities.

The new Sprinter is expected to continue the success story of its predecessor model, of which more than 1.3 million units were built in just 11 years. Stepped-up production volume for the new Sprinter has made it possible to divide manufacturing activities between Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde.

“We invested more than €300 million in Ludwigsfelde for production of the Sprinter, and this enabled us to safeguard jobs,” said Zetsche. “In fact, we’re not only safeguarding the approximately 1,500 existing jobs at our plant, but also those at supplier companies in the surrounding area. And we are strengthening the significance of the region around Ludwigsfelde as a production location for the future as well, especially since we’re also creating around 500 new jobs at DaimlerChrysler Ludwigsfelde – jobs that the region urgently needs.” The Ludwigsfelde plant is already working in two-shift operations, and plans call for a third shift to be introduced.

DaimlerChrysler Ludwigsfelde GmbH has a large proportion of trainees working at its plant: The company is currently training around 200 young men and women, 30 of whom are being trained on behalf of cooperation partners. Over the last 15 years, DaimlerChrysler Ludwigsfelde GmbH has trained more than 1,000 people at the plant, and more than 90 percent of the trainees were subsequently taken on by the company in recent years.

During the ceremony to mark the production launch, Zetsche handed over a new Sprinter – an Arctic White twin-cab flatbed truck – to a cabinetmaking shop for young people in the district of Teltow-Fläming. The shop, part of a project supervised by social workers, provides 20 training positions for teenagers and young adults who have been unable to obtain a regular training position or job.

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