Body, quality and production: Master of quality in the executive segment

Mar 7, 2011
  • Aluminium: new bonnet reduces the weight
  • Value champion: Mercedes-Benz builds the vehicles with the highest value retention
  • Quality: excellent customer feedback in Europe and the USA
  • Production: Sindelfingen, Bremen and East London (South Africa)
The right material in the right place: in accordance with this principle, approximately 70 percent of all the sheet metal panels in the C-Class are made of high-strength steel alloys. With minimum weight, they offer maximum strength and thus the highest possible levels of safety. Today’s ultra-high-strength steel sheet panels deserve a special mention. They achieve a tensile strength that is three to four times higher than that of conventional steel grades, making them indispensable for meeting the stringent Mercedes requirements regarding durability and safety. These ultra-high-strength high‑tech alloys account for around 20 percent of the weight of the
C-Class bodyshell.
Aluminium and plastic are the other two lightweight materials which Mercedes-Benz uses where they offer maximum benefit. The bonnet made of aluminium is new, weighing in at some 9.2 kg less than its steel predecessor and thus reducing the weight where this makes most sense. Other aluminium features on the C-Class are the front wings, the front-end assembly including its flexible cross member and crash boxes, the sheet metal panel for the parcel shelf in the rear, and the door modules. The spare wheel recess is made of plastic.
The aerodynamics of the C-Class are the mark of the bodyshell’s efficiency. With a Cd figure of 0.26 it not only sets the benchmark in its class, but also glides through the wind better than most compact cars – and even small cars – with its drag area of Cd x A = 0.57 sq. m.
Long-term protection: fully galvanised body with tougher paintwork
Long-term corrosion prevention for the bodywork is based on fully galvanised sheet metal panels. Structure areas of the body which are subjected to high stresses are protected with cavity-fill preserving agent. Sheet metal panel laminations and beads are completely filled with adhesive, whilst systematic sealing of the weld seams and edges with a PVC joint prevents corrosion from occurring. Generous underbody panelling composed of plastic laminate protects the bodywork and engine against stone chipping, moisture and dirt. Axle components, which are also subjected to a great deal of stone chipping damage, are protected by plastic panelling.
Mercedes-Benz makes a major contribution to exemplary long-term quality and value retention with a scratch-resistant clear coat based on nano-technology. This innovative paint system, which celebrated its world debut at Mercedes-Benz at the end of 2003, is a standard-specification feature of the new C-Class and is used for both metallic and non-metallic finishes. Thanks to remarkable advances in the field of nano-technology, it was possible to integrate the tiny ceramic particles measuring less than one millionth of a millimetre into the molecular structure of the paint binder. These particles effect a three-fold improvement in the scratch-resistance of the paint finish and ensure a visibly brighter, long-lasting sheen.
Value champion: Mercedes-Benz builds the vehicles with the highest value retention
“Value champion of 2010” – this is the title bestowed on the current C-Class
as well as other Mercedes-Benz models by the market research institute Bähr & Fess Forecast based in Saarbrücken, Germany, on behalf of the specialist magazine “Auto Bild”. According to the market researchers’ prognoses regarding residual value, as a four-year-old car the C 220 CDI will have the highest re-sale value in its segment and will then still achieve 53.5 percent of its current new value. Incidentally, the C-Class already took this top spot last year in the analysis carried out by experts on residual value.
Breakdown statistics: Mercedes drivers run into least bother with breakdowns
Since 1978 the ADAC, the biggest European car club, has been publishing its annual breakdown statistics. For its latest set of statistics the automobile association evaluated around 2.04 million breakdown reports filed by its helpers. The incidents registered were breakdowns involving cars aged between one and six years owned by club members who called the ADAC road patrols to ask for assistance. The result was that the C-Class impressed with very good marks in the executive segment and the upper executive segment. Back in 2008 the C-Class had already secured a win for Mercedes-Benz in the executive segment, building on the brand’s success the previous year.
Quality: US study puts the C-Class in first place
In the current quality study conducted by renowned market research institute J.D. Power and Associates for the American market, Mercedes-Benz achieved the best result since 1990. The IQS study (“Initial Quality Study”) assessed the as-delivered quality of vehicles after 90 days. Some 82,000 buyers of new cars and lessees in the USA with model-year 2010 vehicles were surveyed.
Mercedes-Benz has achieved a further marked improvement in comparison to 2009, rising by three positions in the brand ranking to 3rd place. This is the best IQS result for Mercedes since 1990. Particularly gratifying is the showing by the C-Class, which took first place in the premium entry-level segment.
Production: top quality has a long tradition
The Mercedes C-Class is popular amongst customers all over the globe. It is currently built at three locations: Sindelfingen, Bremen (both in Germany) and East London (South Africa). The Bremen plant enjoys particularly close ties with the compact model family from Mercedes-Benz, as this is the former Borgward and Hanomag-Henschel manufacturing plant.
In 1938 F. W. Borgward put into operation his new car plant for the “Hansa” model in Bremen-Sebaldsbrück. Up until Borgward production ceased in 1961, it was mainly passenger cars that were built here, above all the legendary “Isabella”. In 1971 the tradition-steeped manufacturing facility was taken on by Daimler-Benz and in 1978 it was integrated into the company’s coordinated production system. Vehicles bearing the famous three-pointed star have been built there ever since.
In September 1982 production of body components began in Bremen, initially for the “Baby-Benz” of model series 201, which had already started in Sindelfingen. In November 1983 the entire series production of the new compact model started up in Bremen.1993 saw production of its successor, model series 202, begin in Bremen – first of all with the saloon, and then the estate followed it in 1996. The C-Class of model series 203 was also manufactured in Bremen. Start-up of the saloon and estate versions of the current C-Class, known internally as model series 204, came in 2007. A particular challenge was now posed by changing over to aluminium as the material for the bonnet for the new-generation C-Class during ongoing production.
For the last ten years the compact class has also been rolling off the production line in South Africa: the current C-Class is part of the third vehicle generation built on South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The “East London” plant has been exporting saloons to right-hand drive markets since the year 2000. Since production of the new C-Class began in 2007, left-hand drive vehicles for export to the USA have also been manufactured, and in total more than 100,000 C-Class vehicles have already been built there. In 2010 the plant was in first place in the statistics published by the American quality market researcher J.D. Power in the Europe/Africa category, and received the highest possible accolade in the form of the Platinum Plant Quality Award.