The Mercedes-Benz Research & Development Center in Beijing is under new leadership as of October 1, 2015. Prof. Dr. Hans Georg Engel follows Klaus Mannsperger as the head of Daimler’s Chinese R&D facilities. In his new position, Engel will oversee a growing number of departments and functions with a broad range of research and development activities: apart from the current responsibilities, this new role now also includes program management, procurement, and supplier quality management, which are essential levers in successful product development. Engel was previously responsible for compact car development at Mercedes-Benz Cars Development in Sindelfingen and brings valuable expertise in this field to his new position. Mannsperger, who built up the company’s R&D activities in Beijing over the past nine years, is taking over new responsibilities at the Daimler and Renault-Nissan Alliance joint venture in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
The change in leadership comes at a time of continuous expansion for Mercedes-Benz Research & Development China: after opening its new R&D Center in Beijing in November of 2014, by the end of this year the head count will increase by 40 percent to over 500 highly qualified engineers and designers. Currently, around 85 percent of the workforce is Chinese; the remaining 15 percent of the team consists of experts from a dozen different countries. In total, Daimler has invested about 865 million RMB in its local passenger car R&D network in Beijing.
The company first established Research & Development in China by localizing assembly of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class in 2006. In order to better focus on the needs of Chinese customers, Daimler has continuously increased its scope of work and headcount at the Beijing R&D facilities. In 2009, Mercedes-Benz was the first German premium car manufacturer to open an Advanced Design Studio in Beijing, which was integrated into the new R&D Center in Beijing in 2014.
Up to now, the Mercedes-Benz R&D Center in Beijing has consisted of six departments: ‘Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design’, ‘Localization & Development’, ‘Powertrain & Testing’, ‘Safety, Comfort, Regulatory Affairs and IP’, ‘Telematics and Infotainment’, ‘Trends, Research and Innovation’. The increased responsibilities under Engel’s management – program management, procurement, supplier quality management – are a clear sign of Daimler’s commitment to the Chinese market.
The ‘Trends, Research and Innovation’ division, for example, analyzes local customer profiles and tracks developments in Chinese society in order to translate them into intelligent product solutions and concepts. The spectrum of the China-specific product features that are in focus clearly moves beyond just long-wheelbase product versions. It also includes, for instance, ergonomics and storage concepts as well as market-specific air climate solutions.
Additional functions have also been established with the Beijing Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio, which is one of the company’s most modern and comprehensive design studios worldwide and a local seismograph for design, cultural and mobility trends as well as an integral part of Daimler’s global design network. For instance, experts in the recently established ‘Color and Trim’ unit focus on local preferences concerning fabrics and colors used inside the passenger vehicles. To match Chinese customers’ expectations regarding in-vehicle user systems, such as the ability to enter handwritten Chinese characters or use China-specific internet services, the ‘User Interface Experience’ team implements cutting-edge technologies into the car.
Global research and development network
Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development employs a workforce of 15,750 at 21 facilities in 10 countries worldwide, with a total R&D investment of more than 11 billion Euros in 2013/2014. The company’s global R&D headquarters is located at Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim near Stuttgart.
Besides the new facility in Beijing, Daimler’s global R&D network includes two more international Competence Centers: specialists at Sunnyvale in the USA focus on innovations for the so-called “digital drivestyle”, and Bangalore in India is home to the Competence Center for digital product development and IT.