Dear MBA-students. Thank you for the giving me the opportunity to tell you about the Mercedes-factory in Tuscaloosa - I am very honoured to be here at Harvard University. Mercedes-Benz placed a Mercedes-factory in Tuscaloosa, because they thought, that it would be a great opportunity to come out of Germany, and try out new markets. At this new plant, there will be made sportier, cheaper models, so that the younger costumers - such as your self - are going to be able to buy a Mercedes. Of course with the same excellent Mercedes quality! At Mercedes-Benz it was decided, that the first Mercedes-factory that was going abroad, should be placed in Tuscaloosa.
But why? Mostly because there are no other car-factories there. We would be able to get everybody's attention - for example there has been written a lot of articles, about Mercedes-Benz going out over the German borderline. Also, the Mercedes-factory in Tuscaloosa has just unwrapped the all-new M-Class sport-utility vehicle.
It got a lot of good reviews. In the beginning, the state of Alabama was actually not interested in getting the plant, but they coughed up $250 million in tax benefits and other aid to get it anyway. It was a big investment for the state of Alabama, but not only for them; also for Mercedes-Benz. They had to let go of $300 million to be able to place the Mercedes-factory in Alabama.
A lot of money, even for Mercedes-Benz, so nothing was left to chance. 650 people was handpicked to work at the new plant, because Mercedes-Benz were looking for people with strong team skills, the willingness to continuous improvements and knowledge of the importance of producing only the best. Just to make sure that the quality was Mercedes-standards, 160 of the 650 were sent to a German Mercedes-plant, so that they could learn - learn from the Germans. 70 of the Germans went back with the Americans to Tuscaloosa, and now they double-check all the cars on the plant.
Right now it is not going so fast with the production, but within a few years, we recon that the annual output will reach 70,000. But still; it is the quality that comes first! At the beginning of this project, the management had some doubts about weather the Germans and the Americans could cooperate. Luckily it has showed, that the two groups work excellent together. But even though all the results clearly have been positive in every aspect, we will not hesitate our production, because, as I just said, we must keep in mind that our primary goal is to produce quality vehicles. To adapt the differences between the German workers and the American workers, we chose to abandon the strict hierarchy of the typical Mercedes-Benz-factories that are found in Germany.
We believe, that we can achieve more by having a more casual atmosphere, where even the leaders are wearing simple polo shirts. No one is to far up the ladder to help! Sometimes, I invite a small group out for dinner, or maybe a beer, after a hard days work. I think it is very important that nobody in the company feels like they don't contribute with anything - I want everybody to feel the equal.
After we have been in Alabama for a while now, we can see, that this 'little' project has been a great success. Actually the school kids of Tuscaloosa are taking German classes, so that they can baby-sit the kids of our trainees! Also the local cable TV has German-language TV-stations. So all things considered, it is a success. I would like to make a very strong point in saying that this success is based on all the qualities we first started to reach for, namely good teamwork, trying to make continuous improvements and eagerness to producing only the best. Thank you for listening!
And again, I would like to thank you for inviting me - it has really been a pleasure to tell you all about the plant in Tuscaloosa. I hope you have enjoyed my company as much as I have enjoyed yours. If you were to have any questions, and I mean any questions at all about the new plant, the new M-Class sport-utility vehicle or just about the Mercedes-concern, you can ask them now!