The Assembly line has been around for quite some time now. Pioneered by the legendary Henry Ford in 1913, his practice of “moving the work to the workers” was on course to change the face of mass production, not just in the automotive industry but rest of the world. And sure it did.
Talking of automotive production, while there are niche manufacturers hand-building their cars to perfection, the modern assembly line dragged costs down for the general masses. We got the chance to take a tour of one such facility, the absolute spick-&-span Mercedes Benz India manufacturing plant at Chakan, Maharashtra, so let’s take you guys along for the ride!
The basics of Mercedes Benz’s facility:
We feasted our eyes on how the newly-launched EQS 580 electric vehicle is made in India. Alright, full disclosure here. The Mercedes Benz EQS isn’t exactly “made” here, per se. Rather it is brought on our soil in parts as a CKD (Completely Knocked Down) from Germany and assembled at Chakan. This helps in keeping costs down by avoiding government tariffs that a CBU (Completely Built Unit) suffers from. On the other hand, the rather more tasteful AMG EQS 53 is brought in as a CBU straight from Affalterbach.
The new 516bhp EQS 580 is manufactured on what’s known as a “multi-model assembly line”; as the name suggests, this isn’t the only car assembled on this particular production chain. Neither is the EQS’ platform unique to itself: shared in fact between the EQS SUV and the EQE sedan sold internationally. We shall see not just EV’s but ICE vehicles on the assembly line here. By the way, India is the only country apart from Germany to assemble the EQS and the Maybach S-Class.
We obviously did not have access to all the nitty-gritty’s of these Mercs’ birth. But we sure had a very close look into most of it, about the better part of 10 stages. So, buckle up for a nerd ride into what it takes to make some of the comfiest cars in the world.
Making world-class Mercedes cars:
This one is simple, just gathering your parts together. Even the body comes pre-painted from Germany. Everything is brought onto the assembly line with tools lined up along the work area, and the staff start their work on these cars.
With the EQS (or what’s to be it) on the assembly line, the first things to latch on are the wiring systems. Mind-boggling complexities are inevitable as you can see, it is an EV after all! The wiring here mainly makes up for the internal 12-volt connections, what essentially runs your in-cabin electronics. Do note that this doesn’t include powertrain wiring, as you’ll see shortly.
The sprawling soft-touch leather dashboard with EQS’ party trick, the now-coveted Hyperscreen, gets fitted. The entirety of the dashboard is fitted here, even the AC vents.
The interior colour scheme is configured, once and for all. Why already, you wonder? Because it is on this that the rest of the interior, including seats, will be kitted.
Here, the front seats get slapped on. Electric wirings are also passed through interior trims that make the EQS as uber-tech-laden as it is. Obviously, each and everything is covered in protective plastic, so your luxury Mercedes remains absolutely spotless.
The lights are fixed, and crash absorption materials (made out of high tensile steel, composites and aluminium) are bolted on beneath the rear bumper. Out front, there are aluminium bars fitted across the ‘engine bay’ of the EQS, to make up for the otherwise absent impact absorption that engines blocks cater to in ICE cars.
Fun fact, all bumpers are purposefully made out of plastic, so that the impact can traverse through and be contained within the metal crash barriers.
There is also a heat shield to be placed over the battery (coming right after this) that keeps the car safe from unnecessary battery heat. Batteries do in fact heat up more often than you think. It’s just the electronics of charging that causes this, thus the shield.
The battery pack now arrives to the party. Again, there is no scene of assembling it, for it is shipped completely put together from Deutschland.
Wish to nerd out on some battery tech? (Or skip this paragraph if you don’t.)
So, the substantial 708kg battery pack in our German friend here consists of in-house manufactured pouch cells of NCM 811 (Nickel, Cobalt and Manganese) chemistry, with a modular configuration of 9kWh-each multipliable units. The EQS sedan gets 12 of these cell modules, bringing the capacity up to an impressive-among-EVs 108kWh. Most manufacturers these days use these soft-walled pouch cells, with some getting along a paradigm shift towards ‘Prismatic cells’. On the other hand, companies like Tesla use hundreds or thousands of ‘18650’ Cylindrical cells constituting their battery packs. Moreover, as is in the case of Tesla’s new Model Y and the upcoming Cybertruck, they use their new ground-breaking ‘4680’ tab-less cylindrical cells that are cheaper to produce, 16% more energy dense and are incredibly efficient. China on the other hand are galloping forward in the battery race, with new standards such as ‘6C’ from GAC, potentially charging a car up to 80% in an anxiety-eliminating 8 minutes! (The EQS takes around 30mins for the same with a 200kW DC charger). Although it should be mentioned, battery technology has come so far in the last few years that Mercedes Benz rates their EQS’ battery at retaining 70% of capacity after 250,000kms. And no, all of this information was not copy-pasted from Wikipedia.
But I digress. Back to the EQS. The battery pack is now fitted along the floor of the car. Why are batteries at the bottom, you might ask? That’s because keeping a bulk of the weight this low implicates a lower centre of gravity, making the car a breeze to handle.
This is where the upper and lower sections’ confluence takes place. The powertrain, placed beneath meets the upper body, latter now in its final stages of readiness. The lower half does in fact come all prepped up by now, with the high voltage wirings and control electronics all snug onto the frame. All one needs to do is make a 400-volt sandwich. Easy, right?
The cars are now ready to be driven out on the roads. Well, almost. Here, entire interior is finished up, from seats, trims, roof liners and everything in between. Even the tires are bolted on at this point. The doors are left out all the way till the end to make it easier to work on the cars. The airbag is fitted after the steering is placed onto the column.
By now your car is almost as good as road-ready, right after being taken to a final inspection area for any and every imperfection. Coolants, oils and fuels (the latter two surely not for the EQS) are added and the final ARAI testing is done.
Aaaaand with that, your brand spanking new Mercedes is ready to roll, and is shipped to the dealership.
That’s about it from the Mercedes factory!
All of these is what goes on behind the scenes for a brand as humongous as Mercedes Benz to make cars like the EQS 580. A huge thanks to Mercedes Benz India in letting us tour their state-of-the-art facility, more so with a camera!
The Mercedes EQS 580:
The new EQS 580 is launched in India for a not-cheap INR 1.55Cr, and it sure does have the credentials to call itself the best EV in India. You can watch our video review right here.