Monday, 3 November 2014

Daimler opens China R&D centre

Daimler Greater China has opened its new Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Centre in China and extended its local RD network.

In future 500 highly qualified engineer and designers will be working at the new R&D site.

In total, about 865 million RMB [€112 million] has been invested into the Beijing-based R&D facilities for Mercedes-Benz passenger cars most recently, with about 105million RMB [€13.5 million] into this new site alone.

“For the automotive industry, China has become the most important market worldwide. The country is truly in fast forward mode – we recognise this importance and reflect it in our local R&D activities, which we are clearly pushing forward to the next level,” declared Hubertus Troska, member of the board of management of Daimler AG responsible for China.

“As a key element for our sustainable growth strategy in China, our new R&D Centre will help us to fully tap our potential here and give our Chinese customers’ voice even more weight in our global network and future product development.”

“With our new R&D Centre in China, we are progressing our strategy of the internationalisation of our R&D, showing our full commitment and dedication to China, a key market for us,” added Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the board of management of Daimler AG, responsible for group research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

“Establishing a close-knit and complementary network of R&D Centres across the globe will enable us to incorporate local taste, needs and trends into our products much faster, supporting our vision to become the world’s largest premium car manufacturer by the end of the decade.”

With the new location, Daimler is taking its R&D activities in China to a new level. The company first put China on the map of its worldwide R&D network in 2006 with the localisation of the Mercedes-Benz. Since then, the scope of work and headcount of its local R&D teams has been expanded.

In 2009, Mercedes-Benz was the first German premium car manufacturer to open an Advanced Design Studio in Beijing. To even better cater  the needs of Chinese customers, units for ’Localisation & Development, ‘telematics & Infotainment’ and, most recently, ‘Trends & Innovation’ were subsequently established.

At present, international teams of over 350 experts work for Mercedes-Benz’s Chinese R&D headquarters, covering six different departments. Currently, 80 percent of the workforce is Chinese; the remaining team includes specialists from about a dozen different countries. 

By the end of 2015, the automaker plans to increase the headcount to 500. Mercedes-Benz R&D China benefits from a close link to Daimler’s strong local production and supplier base as well as its Sino-German joint venture R&D sites for vans and electric vehicles.
                                    Focus on Chinese needs

Apart from Advanced Design, there are five departments working for Mercedes-Benz Research & Development China in Beijing. The teams for Localisation & Development and Powertrain & Testing adapt vehicles and engines to Chinese needs, take care of testing, and establish cooperation with local suppliers.

A unit for Safety, Comfort, Regulatory Affairs and IP ensures vehicles comply with all Chinese rules, regulations and standards. In addition, it conducts research on topics like in-car air quality and allergy prevention, and builds up ties with universities and other research organisations.

Telematics and Infotainment focuses on developing telematics and infotainment systems with Chinese requirements, and ensure quality for the systems in the lab and on the road. One task of the unit is to ensure customers can enter handwritten Chinese characters into the multi-media system of their vehicles; another integrates China-specific Apps and internet services into cars. Mercedes-Benz claims to be the first automotive OEM to team up with Baidu, the Chinese Google equivalent, to bring “Streetview” features into its Chinese vehicles.  

The Trends, Research and Innovation department will analyse developments in Chinese society and their effects on future mobility needs. The mission to is translate daily habits into product solutions while at the same time monitoring trends early and reacting on these with the right future product concepts.

The all-new Advanced Design Studio is a centre-piece of the R&D facility and represents the company’s new design hub in Asia, putting new functions like ‘Colour & Trim’ and ‘User Interface Experience’ design on the company’s local design map. All necessary steps of car design can be conducted at the centre first sketches to 1:1 clay models.

Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development employs a workforce of 21,100 at 21 facilities in 10 countries worldwide, with a total R&D investment of €10.8 billion in 2013/2014. The company’s global R&D headquarters is located at Sindelfingen near Stuttgart.

In addition to the new facility in Beijing, Daimler’s global R&D network includes two more international Competence Centres: Specialists at Sunnyvale in the USA focus on innovations for the so-called “digital drive style” and Bangalore in India is home to the Competence Centre for digital product development and IT.

Comment: With so many passenger car companies pinning their faith on continued growth of the Chinese economy, it is to be hoped that China does not disappoint!

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