Things are almost a little cosy in the Graz plant. Not that the employees here don't have a lot to do. But unlike in other car plants, where welding robots hectically swing around and huge automated machines press steel parts together at top speed, in Graz things are a little more calm.
The cradle of the Mercedes G-Class
A caravan of angular car bodies moves slowly along the factory floor, with welding sparks only flashing here and there. You can hear voices, conversations and sometimes even laughter. The cradle of the G-Class is no threatening machine room – it is more reminiscent of a cottage industry. The employees work at their workstations like elves. Metal workers, mechanics, electricians. Almost all of them are trained professionals – the youngest 19, the oldest 63. Many of the plant employees have been there since production began in 1979, and have been coming to work in this hall for 30 years.
Every one of the angular blanks spends about half an hour in their hands. First of all cable harnesses, insulating materials and fittings are screwed in place. The steel skeletons then move on to the net employee – receiving seats, roof lining and interior trims. Last but not least, the vehicle bodies are coupled with ladder frames, an engine and chassis. It happens like this every day. Always from 6:00 until 14:30. Then the shift is over and around 25 new G-Class' have been brought into the world – 90 hand-crafted.
In 2013 around 12,000 off-road vehicles were constructed in this way – around one third more than the previous year and twice as much as five years previously. This large increase in demand, primarily from the Near and Far East also ensured that Magna-Steyr in Graz have once again modernised its production facility and expanded its capacities. A maximum of up to 16,000 units are not to be produced each year, with the production contract between Mercedes and Magna having been extended for a further seven years as recently as in 2012.
Over 34 years, around 230000 Mercedes G have been produced in Graz . And best of all: according to Mercedes one quarter of those are still in use all around the world. Had Johann Puch lived to see this success story, he would certainly have been proud. In his day, only 300 vehicles left the factory in Graz each year. Little wonder – more than 100 years ago his Puch plant was used primarily for bicycle production. It still produces around 16,000 bikes each year.
Following Puch's death in 1914 the focus of the company was shifted to automobile production. Particular following the merger with the Austrian Daimler Motorengesellschaft in 1928 and Steyr Werken in 1934. Under the name Steyr-Daimler-Puch the Haflinger (1959-1974), Pinzgauer (1971-2000) and finally the G-model were later built in Graz. The rest is history.
Whereas in the 80s the Mercedes G was required mainly as a robust utility vehicle, today the emphasis is very much on luxury. Beck then the weakest engine delivered just 71 HP (240 GD). Today it is at least 208 HP (350 CDI Bluetec). And in the civilian version, aluminium wheels are now part of the standard equipment, as are Bi-Xenon headlamps and automatic transmission. Only extremely rarely does a model leave the plant without leather, a sat nav or metallic paint. The cars are only made to customer order. These come mainly from the USA, Germany, Japan, the Near East and Russia. However, due to the sustained high demand, buyers have to wait six months for their new toy. But with this wait, almost every wish is fulfilled. Even armouring in various protection classes can be concealed beneath the angular sheet metal skin in the Graz plant.
AMG-Power from Affalterbach
Components from all around the world are used. The list demonstrates the huge logistic effort: the diesel engines comes from Daimler in Berlin, the 500-series petrol engine comes from Untertürkheim, the 500 HP eight-cylinder from Mercedes tuner AMG based in Affalterbach. The 120 kilogram axles are produced in the rear axle plant in Kassel, the distributor transmission by Magna Powertrain in Lannach, Austria. Johnson Control from Graz is responsible for the cockpit, while the various sheet metal components come from Italy and Germany. The ladder frame is welded together in Marburg, coated and preserved by Magna Steyr in Austria and then waxed in neighbouring Slovenia. Switches and similar non-variable parts from other Mercedes models are acquired from around the world. Production is based on a system of international teamwork – with all roads converging in the plant in Graz.
Regardless of the trim level or the country for which the car was ordered – everything is accomplished within 36 working hours. After this time, 2,500 individual parts come together, the tank is filled with 25 litres of fuel (AMG with 35 litres), and a new G-Class drives off the production line. It has happened this way for 35 years, and will continue to do so for quite a while to come. In future the Puch is set to remain the exclusive place of birth for each individual G-Class. In the past there were only two exceptions: 5000 CKD assembly kits (Completely Knock Down), which were delivered as the 462 interim series for assembly in Greece and 15,000 models that Peugeot manufactured on licence for the military in France. In any case, the workers in Graz are not worried about keeping their jobs. They are convinced of the quality of their product. Even if this product is rapidly climbing to above the price of a flat.
The utility vehicle has become an absolute luxury item – the blame for this lies solely at the feet (or wheels_ of the G-model. In our photo slide show we present to you exciting and original steps from the 35 years of the Mercedes G.