Tradition, technology and trends: for the automotive industry Bremen has always been the place where it all comes together. For almost 80 years the city has forged a reputation in the car making business thanks in particular to Mercedes-Benz and Borgward. Now both manufacturers have taken another major step by making preparations to produce their electric cars – the EQ for Mercedes-Benz and the BX7 for Borgward – in Bremen. The first models are scheduled to roll off the assembly lines in 2018 and 2019.
Borgward’s decision to build a production facility for electric cars in Bremen is a major boost not only for the city as a hub of industry but for the wider region and its expertise in the field of electric drive systems. Bremen has become a centre of excellence for scientific research in northern Germany, particularly when it comes to the automotive sector. From 2009 to 2015 the Bremen and Oldenburg region was one of nine areas in Germany that were tasked with piloting the mobility concepts of the future. The projects were coordinated by the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM). With support from the political sphere and from business, a steadily growing network of manufacturers, suppliers and research institutes is now driving forward e-mobility as a future-focused technology.
A prime example of this collaboration is the Auto Digital trade conference, which was held for the first time in October 2016. The event was launched by the Weser-Kurier regional newspaper in conjunction with partners such as Daimler and Bremeninvest and focused on digitalisation, connectivity and value creation in modern automotive manufacturing. Around 200 high-calibre guests from the worlds of business, politics and research gathered together to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the automotive industry as a consequence of electromobility and the digital revolution.
Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler, used the event as an opportunity to publicly announce for the first time that the maiden EQ model will be built in Bremen. EQ stands for Electric Intelligence. The model that will be rolling off the production lines in Bremen is based on the EQ show car, which was unveiled in September 2016 at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris. It will have two electric motors, permanent all-wheel drive and a range of up to 500 kilometres.
“Zero-emission cars are the future. And I’m delighted that we will be putting production of the maiden EQ model in the capable hands of our Bremen plant. The site will provide us with maximum flexibility, rapid lead times and Mercedes quality right from the start for our new electric model.”
Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler
As part of an e-mobility offensive, Mercedes-Benz Cars is planning to bring more than ten fully electric vehicles to market by 2025. The new electric vehicles will be built within the existing global production network, which has sites on four continents. Bremen is now taking the first steps. With a workforce of more than 12,500 people, the Mercedes-Benz plant in Bremen is the region’s biggest private-sector employer. Ten models are currently made at the site and in 2015 some 325,000 vehicles rolled off the production line here – a figure that is set to rise.
The Hansalinie Industrial Estate, with its room for expansion, was a key factor in Daimler’s decision to build the EQ model in Bremen. In October 2016 the Bremen regional government paved the way for this expansion by giving a green light to the financing of a second phase of development and to plans for a third phase. Hansalinie is currently home to more than 80 companies that employ a total of 3,400 people. A large proportion of the businesses based at the site provide components or services to the automotive industry.
Bremen, Brandenburg or Stuttgart? The Borgward Group had shortlisted these three locations when it was searching for a suitable production facility in Germany. The decision ultimately fell in favour of Bremen, with the city scoring highly for its infrastructure, its international port facilities and other logistical links, its pool of skilled workers and its locational advantages – particularly for the supplier industry. Continental, Kuka, Schäffler/SKF, BorgWarner and Webasto will play key roles in the production of all-electric vehicles, as will Bosch and the electronics group LG in the production of the batteries.
“This is a unique opportunity for Borgward and Bremen to open a new chapter and for me to continue my grandfather’s work.”
Christian Borgward, grandson of Borgward founder Carl F.W. Borgward and Chairman of the Borgward Group AG Supervisory Board
After a break of more than 50 years, Borgward is to start making cars in Bremen once again. The exact location of the site – the city of Bremen itself or its port Bremerhaven – has not yet been decided. But whichever is chosen, construction work on the 10,000m² production hall will get under way this year, with production scheduled to start in 2018. “By taking this step we are demonstrating our faith in Germany as a hub of industry and in the place where our story began,” says Ulrich Walker, CEO of Borgward Group AG. “Our return to Bremen is creating a link between the past and the future.” In the initial phase, Borgward is investing tens of millions of euros and plans to create between 50 and 100 jobs and produce up to 10,000 vehicles a year on a semi-knockdown basis. The semi-fabricated cars will be brought in by sea from China so that their batteries, bumpers, electric motors and headlights can be installed in Bremen. The first model to roll off the production line in Bremen will be the BX7.
“Borgward is a strong German brand that has lost none of its prestige,” says Christian Borgward, grandson of Borgward founder Carl F.W. Borgward and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Borgward Group AG. Borgward first unveiled its plans at the Geneva International Motor Show in March 2015. The BX7 and its BX7 TS sports variant were premiered at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in autumn 2015. The unveiling of further models followed in Geneva in 2016 before production and sales activities were launched in China in spring 2016. In the first four months, Borgward sold over 15,000 cars in China, surpassing the company’s own expectations.
Borgward and Bremen: the first chapter of their story began back in 1928 when the Borgward-Goliath works were founded by Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Borgward. In 1938 the engineer opened a purpose-built car plant in the Bremen district of Sebaldsbrück, and it was here that the first Borgward saloons were made. After the end of the Second World War, Borgward moved into truck production and from 1948 found success with its three brands Lloyd, Goliath and Borgward, which were later followed by Hansa and Isabella. At the beginning of the 1950s only Volkswagen and Opel were recording more vehicle registrations in Germany than the Borgward Group. And in around 1960 Borgward was the biggest industrial firm in Bremen, with approximately 20,000 employees. A total of more than one million vehicles had been made in its production halls by the time the company filed for bankruptcy in 1961. Carl F.W. Borgward died in 1963 at the age of 72.
The brand owes much of its enduring fame and popularity to the Bremen Borgward Club, which was founded in 1981. The club’s 120 or so members act as custodians for more than 200 vehicles made by the Borgward Group (Borgward, Hansa, Lloyd and Goliath). They showcase their prized possessions at vintage car rallies and exhibitions such as the Bremen Classic Motorshow. At the Borgward press conference in October 2016 on Bremen’s cathedral square, their cars were arranged in the shape of the company’s iconic diamond logo.
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