Alfa ensures top quality for their new all electric Tonale SUV…

Alfa Romeo wants to build a top quality gem: the beautiful and striking Tonale, which will be Alfa’s first all electric vehicle. Beautiful it is, we sat personally behind the wheel of the clay model at the Centro Stile under the watchful eye of head of design Klaus Busse, and now Alfa also wants its finish and quality also to be legendary.

So the Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato and Alfa Romeo senior management met up recently with not less than 150 Italian and international suppliers at the G.B. Vico plant in Pomigliano d’Arco.

Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato seen here above

Quality was on the agenda, and virtually only that.

Having specifically focused on this goal ever since his appointment, new CEO Imparato has taken part in monthly meetings at the Pomigliano and Cassino plants.

And Again at the meeting – with about 60 suppliers in attendance and others linked up by a livestream – he strongly reiterated that quality is a major priority. The goal is excellence.

“To achieve it, Imparato told, the starting point is the selection of materials. Our suppliers, the companions on a journey the destination of which is the brand’s first electrified car, embodying Alfa Romeo’s DNA with the highest quality standards.

Plant manager Alessio Leonardi adressing the audience of suppliers at the plant...

Joining the CEO at the meeting were the Stellantis Chief Customer Experience Officer, Richard Schwartzwald, and the plant manager, Alessio Leonardi.

During the meeting, the project targets were shared with the suppliers, considered fundamental stakeholders in the achievement of the qualitative objectives set.

If you are eager to see, drive and make this car your own, we tell you here that the Tonale will be marketed in Europe from June 2022 onwards… we will keep you posted on the further developments concerning this masterful Alfa, stay tuned on these columns!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Experiencing E-mobility for all: we drove the new Citroën AMI in the streets of the Capital of Europe…

Citroën has always been THE brand for breakthrough mobility solutions. It responded this time to today’s challenges by offering 100 % electric mobility literally for all: a cute, roomy two seater with an 8 HP (6 kW) electric motor which can be charged in 3 hours on your home socket and which offers up to 75 km electric range in town or country/village roads. What’s more, since it is only 45 km fast, you don’t even need a drivers’ license for it. In France, 14 year old’s can drive it, in most European countries this is possible from 16 years onwards. But it is also excellent news for the (very) elderly, they have the ideal, roomy two seater which protects them from the elements, it is easy to step in and out of, has two wide opening doors and is the proverbial breeze to drive.

Citroën has done it, and we were delighted thanks to the dynamic PR team to experience the first kilometers behind its cute steering wheel in the streets, squares and boulevards of Brussels. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Light and roomy

Like the iconic 2 CV, this AMI is designed with nothing but practicality in mind. Its symmetrical body shape is unique, with a long roof and cabin, offering a sea of space for its two happy occupants. Only the driver’s seat can be moved fore and aft, the passenger’s seat is fixed, and therefore one sits normally a bit further back than the driver.

Room for a cabin space suitcase, and an elegant hook to hang your bag…

But she/he enjoys formidable legroom, and can actually stretch its legs fully. This means that seating with your legs in a normal position, there is even room for a cabin size suitcase in front of your feet! So there is always enough room for your errands, as besides in the cabin, the AMI has still an extra luggage space in the back.

Citroën has decided to make this long cabin as light and airy as possible. Therefore, a glass panoramic roof is fitted standard. So it is la Vie en Rose in your AMI. One gets in through the wide opening doors, which are identical and because of that opening in different directions. The driver’s door sways out in the front, making getting in and out super easy.

You can throw your pocket camera, bottle and sundry in one of the three customizable bins just behind the window, hang your city/handbag on the elegant hook provided on the passenger’s side, and get behind the wheel. The dashboard just reveals speed and battery charge level, indicating also the remaining range in km. Further, there is a switch for heating and fan. Next to it is a smartphone holder, so your phone can provide for navigation and music.

The row of knobs for “Drive”, “Reverse”, “Neutral” and “Park” sits on the left side of the driver’s seat. Just push “D” and off you go. Acceleration is lively, but don’t expect miracles from 8 HP moving a cute car with a total weight with battery of 485 kg, where one still has to add the weight of one or two passengers. But it is certainly enough to move along with the flow of urban traffic, and with some restraint one soon notices that a cruising speed of around 40 km/h needs just a push of 1 or 2 centimeters on the throttle. You don’t get any deceleration from the E-motor when you lift the throttle at speed, so adapt your driving style and drive with more anticipation as the distances to make good use the kinetic energy are longer. But it can be done, and soon you get the hang of it…

Driving in Brussels one soon notices that the indicated range is absolutely realistic, and that’s a big plus. Also remember, three hours is enough to fully (re)charge the AMI.

Brussels paves are ridden with potholes and ridges, but the AMI took it very well in its stride with a surprisingly comfortable suspension.

Make it your very personal AMI…

As said, life is good in this AMI. Typical and reminiscent of the 2CV are the side windows, which open by manually tilting upwards.

Citroën offers, in a “Do It Yourself” fashion, the possibility of creating the object that suits each customer’ tastes through a kit of accessories that can easily be installed yourself. This kit incorporates functional decorative items: a central separation net, a door storage net, mat, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, small hook for a handbag, smartphone clip, DAT@MI box (dongle device) connected to the My Citroën app to retrieve essential information from your Ami on the smartphone.

4 main shades are available for these accessory kits, costing 400 Euros: MY AMI GREY, MY AMI BLUE, MY AMI ORANGE, and MY AMI KHAKI.

2 characterful packs are available on AMI for even more customization. These 2 packs contain all the above decorative elements and large format stickers that cover the outside and thus give AMI its very own style.

– My Ami POP with Orange personalization and a fun, young and sporty look, with a rear spoiler, is available for €8,190 incl. VAT.

– My Ami VIBE in gray with a more upscale, chic and graphic design that integrates roof coverings in addition to the stickers, is available for € 8,690 incl. VAT.

The installation of these 2 personalization packs is entrusted to professionals before delivery.

The specific exterior body colour is neither too feminine nor too masculine and works with the different colour packs Citroën has developed (blue, white, khaki and orange).

So the Ami is a base that can become a completely customised object with exterior and interior accessories that are either pure style or offer real extra functionality, as well as stickers that give it a completely different characters, tells us Pierre Leclercq, Head of Citroën Style.

Prices…

AMI AMI: 7.290€ incl. VAT

MY AMI ORANGE, KHAKI, GREY, BLUE: 7.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI POP: 8.190€ incl. VAT

MY AMI VIBE: 8.690€ incl. VAT

MY AMI CARGO : 7.690€ incl. VAT.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We spoke with Antonella Bruno: “we are electrifying Jeep for Europe and the world, whilst keeping its unique DNA..”

In our interview series of remarkable women and men in the automotive world, we had an interview with the first woman to lead Stellantis’ historic American brand in the old continent: Antonella Bruno, now Head of Jeep Brand for the Enlarged Europe region.

She has not less than 20 years experience in the automotive industry, and started her career at the company in 2007. Since then, she has held increasingly prestigious roles in the sales and marketing divisions, becoming Market Director Italy for the Lancia Brand in 2012, followed by a position as Head of Lancia Brand in 2013.  

From 2017, in addition to her role at Lancia, she served as Head of Network Development and Customer Experience, an interesting position which together with her new challenge at Jeep, were reasons enough for having this interview…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Antonella Bruno posing in front of the impressive Rubicon at the recent Jeep Media Drive…

Q1 My first question is, you had a long career in the automotive world, I think it has to do with what your father did, but could you tell me why you find the automotive sector so fascinating?

AB: As you rightly said, I grew up close to the automotive world, my father was leading one of the SKF plants, one of the subsidiaries, so after my degree it was natural to step into this sector. I got an opportunity to start working in MSF, and then on further, so it was a kind of natural path for me.

Q2: Why do you think the industry is so unique? What do you think about its future, about the energy transition… and the many mobility and environmental revolutions it is going through, like electrification among others. Do you have any comments on that?

AB:  Let’s say that the automotive industry is very magnetic because it is especially now evolving very rapidly, and electrification is one of the main topics in the future, so at Jeep we started last year with the launch of the Renegade and Compass 4Xe, our first two electrified models, and we are carrying on with that strategy, this will represent our future. We are also working to let the customer understand that buying or considering an electrified car is rather easy, and that the technology is user friendly.

At the recent Jeep 4Xe presentation, you see here the Jeep Wrangler 4Xe in the picture…

We also make clear that being electrified does not mean that they lose the core of Jeep. So for us electrification means catching new customers, with a less aggressive and more sustainable stance, but at the same time – and this is really crucial – it means also to stay true to our values and not really dilute our DNA.

Q3: It is indeed a balancing act for you, you have the customers who appreciate the authenticity of Jeep and go for the Wrangler Unlimited so to speak and at the other end of the spectrum you have new urban Jeep buyers who chose the Renegade and possibly opted for hybrid electrification. Indeed, you have to keep your DNA…

The Renegade has urban qualities…

AB: You are right in saying that we have a more urban clientele opting for the Renegade back in 2018 when it was launched, but also the whole current range of 4Xe models are a perfect example of what we mean in terms of balancing the sustainability and capability because the Wrangler (4Xe and plug-in hybrid) is now a car which you can use daily. If you drive the car, you will notice it performs even better off road thanks to the electrification and this balance I mentioned between sustainability and capability is crucial for a brand like Jeep.  

Q4: With the venue of the Renegade in the mass compact SUV segment, the market presence of the brand has widened considerably…

AB: Yes, as I was saying, before the Renegade the brand was rather more a kind of niche brand in Europe, but when the car was launched, we really grew in terms of volumes and we opened a new segment of (potential) customers.

But equally feels at home in the mountain snow…

Q5: My next question brings us a bit more to the personal side, focusing on the woman in the corporate world. I would like to ask you which skills, which talents did you hone and perfect during your long career and at the same time what would you advise young people and/or young women specifically when they enter the corporate world. What should they watch for, what should they study in terms of human relations, management?

AB As a woman I had the possibility of starting at Ford when I started the first part of my career, and let’s say I had to opportunity to grow a lot, and in terms of skills, I think that it is related to the way I am behaving outside work.

I am an ex-volleyball player so I am used to be very determined, passionate. But I have to be honest, I studied a lot, because when I was young, my first passion was reading, automotive magazines among others. I was very curious, and I used to listen to people who were more experienced than me. Because I think you need also at the beginning to be humble, indeed to be very curious but at the same time humble enough to listen to people who have more experience than you.

I did not experience any kind of difference between men and women, so I was very lucky, and for me it is not a matter of gender, it is a matter of being a professional, being skilled, and you need to keep studying along your career. You grow during your career, but you cannot ever consider that you have arrived, because each new role (re)defines your profile, and therefore at the same time requires you to keep studying. It is important to be a strong, skilled manager, and this goes for both men and women.

Q6: Do you think Corona has affected the position of women in the workplace?

AB: Corona has changed the way we are working in this sense that that now we are spending a lot of time working from home, and this requires a different kind of organization. It requires a kind of cooperation between men and women, let’s say within the family, because it is a new way of working. It depends therefore on the single situation whether this is to the disadvantage of women. It requires an important ability to organize your time.

Q7: If we come back to your new and first rather to your previous function, I was very intrigued that you were Head of Network Development and Customer Experience. Can you tell me more about it?  

AB: AB: As head of customer experience, I can tell you that it was a cross-brand function, and with Corona the digital experience became very relevant and even more so after the sanitary crisis.

So by making the digital experience more efficient, we provide our customer with the ability to order the car online, this is very relevant and it is the future. You have to provide additional content and the digital experience has to be very easy, because you know that 90% of the first research when you are interested in a car starts on the web. So this was the main activity before Corona.

Go anywhere with a Jeep… now also electrified…

Coming back to the network, I had the privilege of leading the network development, which is also very related to the customer experience. To reach the customer is the first mission, but in the final stage we need to explain and pass all the information on the product to the end customer, especially now that we are going through the electrification (of our range). Having said that, we need to offer the best professionalism from our sales staff and we also need to offer a real customer experience in line with our brands. We also need to help the customer to overcome anxiety when it comes to electrification. “

Q8 Can you tell a bit more about the markets in the Enlarged Europe region?

AB: In Europe, the most important market is Italy, representing almost 50 pct of volumes, and we need to keep growing in markets like Germany, which is the most important market in Europe when we talk about electrification. Also France is of key importance for our future.

Retaining Jeep’s unique DNA is our mission…

The high penetration in Italy is explained by the strong legacy with our network, and since June last year we are producing both Renegade and Compass at our factory in Melfi, so Italy is performing very well. I am sure that we will keep growing thanks to the electrification in the markets outside Italy.

HK: We thank you for this interview.

Rewriting the future of our cities: the CEO of Fiat and a world class architect shared their vision…

From left to right: Stefano Boeri, Silvia Boccardi and Olivier François

On World Environment Day, Olivier François, CEO of the Fiat brand and CMO at Stellantis, and the architect Stefano Boeri, whose firm is engaged in urban forestation projects all over the world, featured in a conversation for World Environment Day 2021 on the cities of the future.

They addressed the themes of urban mobility and sustainable architecture to make cities healthier and more livable, by improving air quality and therefore quality of life.

This focus on the future city, and more specifically this sharing of values of sustainability both for urban life and mobility started began over a year ago: in its vision of a utopian city, demonstrated and hinted at by Leonardo DiCaprio in the launch advert for the New 500, Fiat drew inspiration from the green architecture created by Boeri in several locations around the world.

Read all about it further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A new renaissance for (mega)cities…

At their meeting, François and Boeri analyzed the opportunities for a “New Renaissance”: they looked at photographs of the current situation in cities and even more so to the images of the ongoing changes. They also took a long hard look at the societal trends and the increasing interest of urban dwellers all over the world for environmental issues. Then they discussed the urgency of taking action, and the major opportunity of inspiring change.

That inspiration for change must be rooted in attention to aesthetics, in architectural beauty, but also inspired by the certainty of the need to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to reduce pollution levels in the cities we live in.

Boeri’s vertical forest in Milano.

Both men came to the conclusion that the combination of architecture like Boeri’s Vertical Forest – its 27,000 plants and millions of leaves contributing to clean the air by absorbing CO2 – and cars like the New 500 offering zero-emissions mobility can no doubt contribute to improving air quality in our cities.

The all electric 500 steps already in the new era…

In the words of Olivier François, Fiat CEO and Stellantis CMO: “The decision to launch the New 500 – electric and electric alone – was actually taken before Covid-19. Even then, we were already aware that the world could not take any more “compromises”.

In fact, lockdown was only the latest of the warnings we have received. At that time, we witnessed situations that would have been unimaginable until then, for example wild animals roaming the cities, proving nature was taking back what was rightfully hers. Plus, as if it had still been necessary, we were reminded of the urgency of taking action, of doing something for the planet Earth.

We have an icon, the 500. An icon always has its cause and the 500 is no exception: in the 1950s, it opened access to mobility for all. Nowadays, in this new scenario, it has a new mission – our mission – to create sustainable mobility for all.

It is our duty to bring to market electric cars that cost no more than vehicles with an internal combustion engine, as soon as we can in line with the falling costs of their batteries. We are exploring the territory of sustainable mobility for all: this is our greatest project.

Between 2025 and 2030, our product line-up will gradually become electric-only. This will be a radical change for Fiat.  Meanwhile, in the near future, only a few months from now, I am proud that we will see the conversion of the legendary track on the roof of the former Lingotto factory in Turin into the largest hanging gardens in Europe, hosting over 28,000 plants. A major, meaningful – and once again sustainable – project, due to revitalize the city of Turin, our home.”

Urban planning for the future…with more plants and trees.

Then Stefano Boeri, architect, urban planner and founder of the Stefano Boeri Architetti practice, gave also his views: If we consider that cities are responsible not only for the emission of over 70% of CO2, a phenomenon at the origin of global warming, but also for the emission of pollutants which are the main cause of diseases and mortality from respiratory problems, it is clear that cities are the first places to intervene with a profound change.

The Covid pandemic has shown us how fragile our lives and our bodies can be and highlighted the importance of improving the environment and above all the air of the cities in which we live.

“La Pista” 500, soon a reality on the rooftop of Lignotto, in place of the iconic oval track.

In addition to absorbing CO2, reducing energy consumption and urban heat, increasing the biodiversity of living species and making cities more attractive, trees drastically reduce fine dust pollution.

Let’s not forget: plants and trees are the only way we have to absorb the pollutants already emitted. I believe that the time has come to promote, with all our strength and resources, a great campaign to clean the polluted air of our cities, that microparticulate of substances harmful to the health of our lungs that has certainly accentuated in some particularly polluted urban areas the intensity of spread of the COVID 19 infection.

We already have several solutions available that can help us: protect and increase the permeable and green surfaces by creating new parks and gardens, in and around our cities; transform city roofs into lawns and vegetable gardens; promote community gardens and urban agriculture; use tree roots to decontaminate polluted soils; create a network of green corridors to connect parks, forests and green buildings. “

More electric mobility in the urban environment is imminent…

In Fiat’s vision, the penetration of electric mobility will rise, as more and more barriers are overcome. The topics under discussion in the talk included the need to improve access to electric cars, by means of innovation and new financial products that can lower the bar of entry; the need to increase the number of private charge points at apartment buildings, requiring a rethink of the infrastructure of the apartment buildings of the future, but most of all by adapting existing buildings; the need to raise visibility of charge points in cities and increase the penetration of fast charging stations.

That will entail a rethink of urban planning, a challenge that requires the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders. This is the stimulus and message Olivier François and Stefano Boeri wish to put out as their contribution to World Environment Day – held by the United Nations every June 5th, the message of which this year is “TOGETHER WE CAN BE #GENERATIONRESTORATION”.

Question time…

At the question time after the presentation, your servant asked CEO Olivier François to elaborate a bit more about the dialogue which existed between Fiat and these stakeholders in shaping the city of the future and its mobility.

Besides public bodies and municipalities, I was also keenly interested in how the dialogue unfolded with Fiat’s supplier firms like Bosch, Siemens, etc, who also perform extensive research in these fields. CEO Olivier François then trusted the answer to his colleague who maintains this dialogue with these external firms.

In his answer, he focused here mainly on the oil firms, which propose also future-oriented solutions, ranging from alternative “clean” fuel to renewables, and he saw the big oil companies also gradually transform themselves into suppliers of energy in all its forms, i.e. becoming “energy” supplying firms in the widest sense of the word. He pointed out that the boundaries between electricity suppliers and the oil firms will become increasingly blurred. The dialogue is indeed active and is indeed widened to all forms of energy. Energy supply and CO2 reduction remain the crux of the matter for all, he concluded his answer.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bentley celebrates the production of its 200.000th car…


The Bentayga Hybrid, destined for a Chinese customer, met the oldest surviving Bentley, EXP 2, and a number of long serving colleagues, as it rolled off the production line at the home of Bentley in Crewe this week.

Things have taken off for the inconic brand over the last 18 years. Thanks to the success of the Continental GT and more recently the Bentayga SUV, daily production has soared. Indeed, over that period, over 75 per cent of 101 years of production has been hand-built at the Crewe factory, more than ever the home of Bentley. Current daily production, 85 cars per day, equals monthly production numbers of two decades ago.

The Bentley Continentals – then and now…

I vividly recall the interview I made at the Frankfurt Motor Show more than a decade ago with Franz-Josef Paefgen, then CEO of Bentley Motors and Bugatti Automobiles, posts he left in 2011.

During his time as the Chief Executive Officer of Bentley Motors Ltd., he was responsible for the Bentley Mulsanne and the Bentley Continental series of cars. From 2003 to 2005, Dr. Paefgen was responsible for the development of the Bugatti Veyron.

Every Bentley is actually a four wheeled chapter in automotive history…

I asked him then whether a hybrid Bentley was not on the cards, as Bentley’s could be considered the pinnacle of engineering and an electrified Bentley would be proper. It clearly was not in the strategy of the VW Group then, as the idea was immediately brushed aside by Mr. Paefgen as unrealistic, customers not wanting this at all…

Well times have changed quite a bit since then, as we now read that Company aims to be end-to-end carbon neutral by 2030 with entire model range switched to battery electric vehicles(!). Bentley will move to full electrification – PHEV or BEV only – by 2026, then switch the entire model range to battery electric vehicles by 2030. The industry-leading Beyond100 Strategy will transform every aspect of the business as Bentley accelerates into its second century of luxury car production.

Six cylinder Bentley engine production in the ’50s in Crewe…

What this means for the retail value and depreciation of the existing and historic Bentley’s remains to be seen…

But back to the production history.

The Continental GT was the first landmark…

In 2003 the introduction of the Continental GT represented a transformative moment for the brand, and this Bentley alone, has represented 80,000 sales of the total of 200,000, and created both a new segment, and a contemporary image foundation for the Bentley business.

The Crewe factory in 1940…

…followed by the Bentayga

The success of the Continental GT has been mirrored by the Bentayga, offering a true Bentley driving experience and unparalleled luxury. Launched in 2015, when it established the luxury SUV sector, the fastest SUV in the world has reached its 25,000 production landmark. It is expected that the Bentayga could surpass total sales of the Continental GT within a decade and become the biggest selling Bentley model in history.

And now in 2021…

Since 2005, the company has also built 40,000 examples of the Flying Spur, the most successful luxury sports saloon in the world.

We show you here some photos, lifting a veil of the very interesting and multifaceted production history of the brand, and then we have told nothing of their sporting achievements…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW iDrive: a stunning presentation, and a bold step towards a safe personal driving experience…

We just witnessed the presentation, and of course we will come back on this with more details, but we can say already that BMW again produced a breakthrough in car to driver communication…

We show you here some screenshots of the presentation, but, as said, there is more to come about this very convincing approach…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW presents on Monday 16 March their 8th Generation of iDrive…

BMW stunned the automotive world 20 years ago with their iDrive BMW opened a new era of in-car operating technology.

Keen to get a grip on the constantly expanding array of functions in vehicle interiors, in 2001 BMW instigated a paradigm shift in the then new BMW 7 Series.

Today, BMW developers and designers focusing on user interaction and user experience have faced up to a new set of challenges. The 8th generation of BMW iDrive brings about another paradigm shift – this time to a new kind of relationship between driver and their vehicle. Needless to say, we are very intrigued and will certainly follow the premiere online!

Indeed, You can follow the world premiere live at www.live.bmwgroup.com, on Monday, 15 March 2021, 15:30 GMT.

You can also follow the @BMWGroup social media channels for the live broadcast.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/bmwgroup/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BMWGroup

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BMWGroup

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/BMWGroupView

We would say, don’t miss it!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

How the Tonale prototype design model was born for the Geneva Salon…two years ago.

Klaus Busse presented the Alfa Romeo Tonale two years ago in Geneva…

Klaus Busse is the talented head of design for Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Chrysler, and he is also quite active on social media. We read today a post from his hand on his Instagram page about the presentation of the Tonale at the Geneva Show two years ago, together with some stunning photos showing how the Tonale was sculpted out of plaster and other materials to become a real looking car, to be shown as a styling model at the salon.

Craftsmen working on the clay model, succeeding into making it a real looking car…

The photos show how elements of the car were formed and made by hand. Some pieces were 3D printed, I believe, but personally I find it truly amazing how these craftsmen put the car together, and finished it to become a design model with gleaming paint and shiny elements, the result being indistinguishable from a “real” car.

I believe, 3D printed elements were used…
Also here 3D printed elements abound…

I found the photos so interesting that I want to show them here to you on these pages.

The steering wheel gets a “real” feel…
Craftsmen sculpting the rear end…

On the fourth of May 2019, I visited the Centro Style in Turin, and met Klaus Busse. You see me standing proudly beside the Tonale prototype, and also in a group photo with Klaus Busse himself on the left.

Sweet memories, and of course your servant would love to witness once how these craftsmen work to create such an unbelievably finished prototype…

Just enjoy the photos with me!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes moves its E-power competence centre to its home core factory in Untertürkheim…

Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus, Stuttgart-Untertürkheim

German automakers are very serious about it. Getting as competent about E-power technology and drive systems as they are in petrol engined technology. So they are making the essential and necessary structural changes.

Mercedes for instance is transforming its Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems unit and its Stuttgart-Untertürkheim site for an “Electric First” future in the context of its “Ambition 2039” strategy.

Untertürkheim is to become a technology competence centre with a campus focusing clearly on electric drive and battery technology, including the production of lithium-ion cells. The Untertürkheim site has always been an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz powertrain production network – as an innovation centre and as a hub of Mercedes-Benz powertrain expertise.

Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems

A three-digit million euro amount is invested to transform Untertürkheim, the largest site in the company’s global powertrain production network, which will in future be known as the “Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus”.

The site will focus on research, development and production ramp-ups of drive systems.

A new factory for the small-series production of future battery cells, and a dedicated battery safety lab, will complement Mercedes-Benz’s existing research and development activities in the field of battery technology.

eATS test benches at the Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus Untertürkheim

The company strives for a holistic approach which ranges from basic research and development to manufacturing of battery systems. In terms of series production, the site will focus increasingly on electric drive components – battery and electric drive systems, while conventional engine, transmission and component production will gradually be phased out, which will affect employment profiles and scopes.

Vertical integration is essential…

The Mercedes-Benz Drive Systems Campus is a crucial development step regarding the sustainable transformation of the Untertürkheim site. At the same time, this requires substantial adjustments in its production program and processes. In this context, the existing competence centres will be restructured or systematically expanded. The close link of research, development and production at the same location will create important preconditions for synergies and unique know-how,  strengthening the vertical integration in house as a key pillar.

The Mercedes-Benz battery factory in Untertürkheim – plant annex Hedelfingen – will produce battery systems for the Mercedes-EQ model EQS from 2021

Focus on battery technology and electric drive systems.

The bundling and extension of its battery activities is of paramount mportance. Widespread research and development activities are already anchored at the Untertürkheim location, such as the e-technology centre and cell technology centre, where, among other things, prototypes for the electric drive system are built and cell technologies are researched and tested. Additionally, the battery research and development activities currently located at the Nabern part of the plant, including various test benches, are to be relocated on the campus in the future.

Further investments are planned in the significant expansion of the current cell technology centre in order to be able to cover the entire value chain of battery technology. In addition to basic research, pre-development and design of battery cells, a new factory for the small-series production of lithium-ion battery cells is being planned, starting operations in 2023. The sustainability factor, transparent cell development through to recyclability, plays a major role in this. Moreover, a dedicated battery safety lab will complement Mercedes-Benz’s activities.

Mercedes-Benz Untertürkheim plant to produce electric powertrain in the future

In the future, the company will cover almost the entire field of battery technology at its Untertürkheim location – right down to battery systems which are manufactured at the site. The battery factory in Brühl nearby will produce batteries for plug-in hybrid vehicles from 2022. Starting this year, battery systems for the Mercedes-EQ model EQS – the all-electric member of the S-Class family – will roll off the assembly line at the Hedelfingen part of the plant. The EQS will be manufactured at Factory 56 in Sindelfingen some 20 km away starting in the first half of 2021. The battery system for the EQE will also be produced in Hedelfingen.

In just a few months, battery systems for the Mercedes-Benz EQS – the all-electric member of the next S-Class family – will roll off the assembly line at the Hedelfingen battery factory, which will be manufactured at Factory 56 in Sindelfingen some 20 km away. The battery factory relies on state-of-the-art systems and uses a wide range of Industry 4.0 technologies. The extensive production tests are already in full swing.

The company moreover is setting a clear focus on the development of the highly efficient electric drive system, the intelligent combination of electric motor, battery system, power electronics and software through to series maturity including testing.

The next generation of electric motors are being developed in house and will feature inverter and high voltage technology. The manufacturing and assembly of electric drive systems parts for future vehicle models of the Mercedes-EQ brand will start at the end of 2024 and round off the product portfolio with the battery factories in Hedelfingen and Brühl. The previously planned production volumes of electric drive systems will double.

Flexible powertrain production network…with protected employment.  

With regard to the series production volumes of conventional powertrains at the Untertürkheim location, Mercedes-Benz will even more benefit from the flexibility of its global powertrain production network in the future.

The eATS is the engine unit of electric vehicles. The eATS consists essentially of the three subsystems: an electric motor, its power electronics and the transmission part for power-transmission.

New production volumes are being examined in detail in order to maximize efficiency and profitability. On the employment side, this leads in the medium term to changes in employment profiles, for which the company prepares its employees with targeted qualification measures. The reduction of series production volumes of conventional powertrains will also lead to adjustments of personnel at the Untertürkheim location. The company is preparing for this with various measures and the top priority is to implement structural and personnel measures in a socially acceptable manner with regard to the jobs affected.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

In-car cinema is amongst us: the top all-electric Mercedes EQS gets a unique MBUX Hyperscreen.

Mercedes is making another breakthrough in terms of dashboard infotainment. In 2018 the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) was unveiled in the current A-Class, and there are now more than 1.8 million Mercedes-Benz passenger cars equipped with it on the roads worldwide. A few months ago, the second generation of this learn-capable system debuted in the new S-Class. The next big step now follows in the form of the new EQS and the optionally available MBUX Hyperscreen.

The large, curved screen unit stretches almost the entire width from the left to the right A-pillar. In addition to its sheer size, the high-quality, detail-loving design also provides a “wow” effect. This aesthetic high-tech look is the emotional dimension of the MBUX hyperscreen.

Added to this is artificial intelligence (AI): With software capable of learning, the display and operating concept adapts completely to its user and makes personalized suggestions for numerous infotainment, comfort and vehicle functions.

Thanks to the so-called zero layer, the user does not have to scroll through submenus or give voice commands. The most important applications are always offered in a situational and contextual way at the top level in view. In this way, numerous operating steps are taken away from the EQS driver. And not only him: The MBUX Hyperscreen is also an attentive assistant for the passenger. It receives its own display and operating area.

“The MBUX Hyperscreen is both the brain and nervous system of the car”, says Sajjad Khan (photo here above) , Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG and CTO. “The MBUX Hyperscreen continually gets to know the customer better and delivers a tailored, personalized infotainment and operating offering before the occupant even has to click or scroll anywhere.”

We are of course quite keen to get acquainted with this Hypersreen…hopefully soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel