Report – MB India begins local production of M-Class, launches ML 250 CDI variant

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Shoeb Kalania, An Automobile Engineer by qualification and an automobile designer by passion, I am here with IndianAutosBlog to live my passion and do so by providing you with renderings and sketches of future vehicles.

Earlier this week, Mercedes-Benz India rolled out its first locally manufactured M-Class from its plant at Chakan, Pune and also began operations of its paint shop.

Mercedes ML250 CDI start of production Chakan, PuneMercedes ML250 CDI start of production in India

Present at this milestone event were Mr. Ralf Mungenast, Director, International Production, Daimler AG and Mr. Piyush Arora, Director, Technical, Mercedes-Benz India.

That’s not all. On the same occasion, Mercedes announced a base variant for the M-Class, the ML 250 CDI, at a price of Rs.45.64 lakhs (ex-showroom Pune). The ML 350 CDI variant, currently imported from the U.S. also gets locally produced starting next month. There is no immediate plans to add more variants to the ML lineup.

The M-Class is said to be the market leader in the full-size SUV segment with almost 80% share. Mercedes has managed to sell around 600 units of the SUV in 2011 and the same number of vehicles have left showrooms up till September this year. Till date the company has managed to shift 2,000 units in the Completely Built Unit (CBU) form and with the launch of the localized variants these numbers are expected to keep rising.

Mercedes ML 250 CDI

The new M-Class 250 CDI variant is powered by a 2.2 litre diesel engine producing a max torque of 500Nm @ 1600-1800 rpm and peak power of 203hp @ 4200 rpm. Power reaches wheels through a 7G-Tronic transmission with 4WD. Mercedes said the smaller engine delivers a fuel efficiency of 15.26 kmpl.

Mercedes M-Class ML 250 CDI front three quartersMercedes M-Class ML 250 CDI rear three quarters

The speedo needle reaches 100 kmph from zero in just 9 seconds. The top speed is limited to 210 kmph.

The driving performance is enhanced using a two-stage turbocharger which helps to produce high torque even at low engine speeds. The ECO start-stop function lowers fuel consumption and emissions.

Mercedes M-Class ML 250 CDI side viewMercedes M-Class ML 250 CDI badge, number plate enclosure

The ML 250 CDI comes loaded with features like ABS, ESP, Acceleration speed control, Brake Assist, Airbags, PRESAFE, Attention Assist, Bi-Xenon headlamps, LED Daytime running lamps, Adaptive headlights, Intelligent Light System, headlamp washer, electric sunroof, 18” ten-spoke alloy wheels, Aluminium running boards and more.

Mercedes M-Class ML 250 CDI dashboardMercedes M-Class ML 250 CDI at the Chakan plant

Occupants will be treated with electric power seats with 4-way lumbar support, wood trim and a soothing ambient lightning solution. Also available is an electric parking brake and Active Parking Assist. The Reverse Park Assist is a feature which detects parking space and parks the vehicle automatically.

Mercedes Paint Shop inauguration

Mercedes-Benz India has started using its fully-automated paint shop at its Chakan facility. Prior to this, it rented the services of Tata Motors’ paint shop for its CKD models. The paint shop utilizes environmentally friendly water-based painting technology and is as per the global standards set by Daimler.

Mercedes ML250 CDI shellMercedes ML250 CDI passes through the assembly line

The paint shop utilizes the latest communication systems for monitoring cars. Each and every car is tracked at every stage with RFID (Radio-frequency identification) systems. The control of all the equipment is through a central server and automated feedback loops for equipment ensure optimum setting according to the process and environmental conditions.

Assembly of the Mercedes ML250 CDI in ChakanMercedes ML250 CDI local assembly in Chakan

The paintshop also boasts of sophisticated checking laboratories with the latest equipment. The automated selection of colours are programed on robots and an online status of input and output offers flexibility and complete control in production sequencing.

Mercedes ML250 CDIMercedes ML250 CDI on the assembly line

The new paintshop has an annual capacity of 20,000 units and can be expanded to 40,000 units annually (hints at the volumes Mercedes will shift into India in a year, way into the future). It covers an approximate area of 17,000 square meters, created in a record time of 16 months.

Pointers from the Mercedes factory press conference

  • Mercedes-Benz India is the market leader in the full size SUV segment and commands 80% of the market share.
  • The company lacks products in two key segments as of now which are being ruled by BMW X1, Audi Q3 and BMW X3, Audi Q5. Mercedes is planning to get new products in these segments by 2014-2015.
  • Mercedes has the GLK in their portfolio which can take on the X3 and Q5 but is not available in RHD form as of now. The smaller GLA, based on the A-Class, will compete with the X1 and Q3 in 2015.
  • More products will be locally manufactured in the future. However localization for B Class isn’t yet confirmed.
  • The largest Mercedes SUV, the GL Class, will be locally assembled next year.
  • Almost 30% of the M Class is localized. The powertrain and axles are sourced locally.

India becomes the first ever market to offer a locally produced M-Class outside the U.S. The kits for this SUV are shipped from the Alabama plant in the U.S.

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