The Mercedes-Benz bus plant in Monterrey, Mexico, is celebrating two milestones this year: the 15th anniversary of Daimler Buses in Mexico, and the production of the facility’s 50,000th vehicle. The plant, which Daimler Buses began operating in 1994, has approximately 350 employees who produce buses and chassis for the Mexican market. The facility is located in Garcia near the city of Monterrey in the Mexican state of Nuevo León. The plant has very good transport connections and a well-trained workforce for production as well as engineering operations.
“On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of our Monterrey facility, I would especially like to thank our people at the plant for the outstanding job they’ve done,” says Hartmut Schick, head of Daimler Buses. “Their knowledge and dedication have enabled us to consistently further develop our bus activities in Mexico, and they have also made us the undisputed market leader in the country since 1997.”
Approximately 11,000 buses were sold in Mexico in 2008 (buses > 8t GVW, incl. school buses); Daimler Buses accounted for 6,250 of these units in this record-breaking year, giving it a market share of 56.3 percent. The urban and intercity buses sold by a total of 39 Mercedes-Benz dealerships account for the largest share of Daimler bus sales in Mexico (85 percent). The remaining 15 percent are travel coaches provided to eight major fleets.
The first half of 2009 was marked by an ongoing downturn on South American markets, which is why demand for Daimler Buses products in Mexico fell sharply as well. Overall sales on the Mexican bus market declined by 48 percent in the first six months of 2009, but Daimler Buses was nevertheless able to maintain its market leadership in Mexico during this period with a market share of 60.4 percent, which was higher than the figure recorded in the first half of 2008.
“Our product portfolio has been completely revamped,“ says Jochen Duppui, head of Mercedes-Benz Buses Mexico. “We’re also continuing to implement the measures we’ve launched to ensure that we remain successful in the future. I’m quite confident that our team in Monterrey will continue to display the high level of commitment and effort we’ve seen in the past, and that this will allow us to stay competitive and prepared for the future.”
15 years of success
The Monterrey plant has gotten better and better over the last 15 years. The history of the plant actually began in 1993, when Daimler-Benz launched a partnership with the Brazilian bus-body manufacturer CAIO and began assembling urban buses. The front-engine bus chassis were built by Mercedes at its São Bernardo do Campo plant, the bus bodies by CAIO. Soon after the partnership was launched, the Monterrey plant went into operation and began assembling buses with rear-mounted engines. The new facility faced its first major challenge during the “Tequila Crisis” in 1995, when a massive depreciation of the Mexican peso plunged the country into its worst economic crisis to date. It was only an assistance package of US$ 47.8 billion provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that prevented a collapse of major banks and investment funds in Mexico. The Monterrey plant was forced to operate with only a minimal workforce in order to ensure that the plant could stay open and retain its expertise. New orders ushered in a recovery in 1997, at which time the partnership with CAIO was discontinued.
Then, in 1998, Monterrey officially took over the bus chassis operations previously carried out by the Santiago Tianguistenco plant in Mexico, producing its first chassis in 1999. Truck assembly operations were subsequently launched as well, and in 2000 the facility established a joint venture with Marcopolo. The Torino urban bus and the Allegro intercity bus were launched on the market in 2001. Another major milestone was the introduction of the Boxer. This model was originally developed only as a chassis for front-engine urban buses, but later became a bus in its own right — and the epitome of the Mexican urban bus. The Monterrey plant then conquered the Mexican market in subsequent years with products such as the Multego. It also began to supply articulated buses for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Mexico City, and now equips all of its vehicles with EPA04 exhaust gas technology. Monterrey set a new production record in 2008 by building 6,010 units. The milestone year of 2009 will be marked by the production of the facility’s 50,000th vehicle and a complete revamping of its product portfolio, which will now consist, among other things, of the new XBC chassis for rear-engine urban and intercity buses, the new OH2836 RFA chassis, which meets the Euro 5 emission standard, and the new Multego 1844 and 2244 models with EPA04-compliant emissions.
The Mercedes-Benz range of urban buses now consists of the Boxer (front-mounted engine), the Torino (rear engine), and the Gran Viale and Coraza articulated buses. For the intercity segment, the brand provides the Allegro, while its travel coach program encompasses the Andare (Economy), the Turiclass (Business), and the Multego (Premium). The Boxer is clearly the bestseller among all the Monterrey models, accounting for around two thirds of all the bus units that roll off the line at the plant. Moreover, with a market share of 68.2 percent in 2008, the Boxer has now become the typical urban bus on the Mexican market.
Daimler Buses invested around US$80 million in the Monterrey plant between 1993 and 2009. Investment in 2007 and 2008 totaled approximately US$1.6 million, and included funds for a new drinking water processing facility, production tools and equipment, a laboratory for material and quality testing and control, training classrooms, and transport containers and equipment for vehicle axles.
The Monterrey facility participates in a development network with Mercedes-Benz sister plants in Brazil and Germany. “Cooperation between the colleagues in Brazil, Germany, and Mexico is excellent — everyone benefits from it,” says Schick. “The Monterrey plant is not only involved in the development of new vehicles for the Mexican market, but also takes on assignments for other locations.” Among other things, high-altitude tests for various types of commercial vehicles are carried out in Mexico. The new Boxer OF urban bus is also a good example of the effectiveness of Daimler Buses’ global development network: The chassis was developed by engineers in Brazil, with German colleagues providing project management support and key components such as axles, clutches, and engines. Staff in Mexico then adapted the Boxer OF in line with regional requirements.