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Mercedes-Benz buses and coaches in Turkey - Market leader in the country on the Bosphorus: 20 years of the MB Türk bus plant in Hoşdere, near Istanbul
- The story of Mercedes-Benz buses in Turkey began 47 years ago with the production under license of the Mercedes-Benz O 302 regular-service bus
- Since 1989 Daimler AG has been the majority shareholder of the company that in 1990 became Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş.
- The state-of-the-art bus plant of Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş. in Istanbul-Hoşdere, at the most south-easterly tip of Europe, began operating in 1994
- Nowadays the Hoşdere plant manufactures Mercedes-Benz urban and rural regular-service buses and touring coaches, as well as Setra rural-service buses
- The manufacturing processes undertaken there encompass bodyshell production, painting and assembly
- Development responsibility for the bodyshell and interior appointments of all integral bus model series built by Daimler Buses and for endurance testing activities and order processing for more than 4500 buses and coaches a year
Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş. is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its state-of-the-art bus production facility in the Hoşdere area of Istanbul, which is in East Thrace, on the European side of the city on the Bosphorus (Marmara Region). The company is one of the most highly regarded in the country. MB Türk has one foot in Europe and one in Asia: the bus production plant in Istanbul-Hoşdere and a truck plant in Aksaray, in the Central Anatolian region.
Hartmut Schick, Head of Daimler Buses and since March 1, 2009 chairman of the Supervisory Board of Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş., looks back on 20-year success story for the Hoşdere plant: “Hoşdere is a very important location for Daimler Buses, with two-thirds of the buses and coaches produced here being exported to Europe and to the Near and Middle East. The facility is a highly significant player in Daimler Buses' co-ordinated European production system. This is further underscored by the investment that the Group has made since the launch in 1967 so far into its Turkish subsidiary, with 885 million euros going into the plants in Istanbul and Aksaray.”
The Mercedes-Benz brand first became active in Turkey almost 50 years ago. On 3 December 1966, Daimler-Benz AG joined forces with two Turkish partners to form the company Otomarsan A.Ş. (Otobüs ve Motorlu Araclar Sanayi). At the time, this company had a bus plant in Istanbul-Davutpaşa, where Mercedes-Benz O 302 regular-service buses were built under license from 1968 on. Following an increase in Daimler-Benz AG's shareholding to 50.3 percent in 1989, the Turkish subsidiary changed its name, on 11 November 1990, to Mercedes-Benz Türk A.Ş. Since 1 July this year, business operations at Mercedes-Benz Türk have been headed up by Britta Seeger.
The state-of-the-art bus manufacturing facility in Istanbul's Hoşdere district, which at the time featured a covered production area of 30,000 m2 and had an annual production capacity of 2000 vehicles, took up operations in the summer of 1995. Work to develop the plant has continued steadily over the last 20 years. Quite recently the 75,000th bus has been produced in this plant. Hoşdere nowadays incorporates every aspect of the process chain of bus production, from the body-in-white, cathodic dip priming, interior fit-out and paintwork to final assembly. It is firmly established as a key player in the internationally co-ordinated production system for Daimler Buses.
In Germany, where 50 years ago there were still ten manufacturers, Daimler AG with its Mercedes-Benz and Setra brands, based at locations in Neu-Ulm, Mannheim and Dortmund (minibuses), is now the only national producer. But Daimler AG, too, was an early adopter of the concept of globalisation, recognising the opportunities that this brought in terms of its production strategy. In the 1990s Daimler recognised the strategic importance of Turkey for commercial vehicle production and in terms of the attractive home market for commercial vehicles to be tapped into at this important interface between Europe and Asia.
Dr Holger Steindorf, Head of Production at Daimler Buses, describes the way the Turkish location has developed as exemplary. In earlier roles at Daimler, he witnessed the beginnings of MB Türk and the opening of the Hoşdere facility in June 1995 himself, and says today: “I am delighted to see the positive progress that has been made at Hoşdere. The employees in all areas here are professionally
extremely competent, deliver a high standard of quality, are clearly extremely committed and continue to make the success of our bus manufacturing facility their focus.”
Sales of 75,000 buses and coaches and more than 215,000 trucks
Turkey does not have an effective railway network to speak of, as a consequence of which major volumes of goods and freight traffic need to be carried by road. On top of this, there is a massive requirement for passenger transport. In the 20 years since Hoşdere came into being more than 75,000 buses and coaches have been built, while the years since 1986 have seen more than 215,000 Mercedes-Benz trucks roll off the production lines in Aksaray. Of the 4500 or so buses and coaches produced each year, around a third are registered in Turkey. The market share for touring coaches in Turkey held by the Mercedes-Benz brand currently stands at 64 percent. For trucks the ratio is inverted: 97 percent of an average year's production of around 18,500 units remain within the country and only three percent are exported.
Breakthrough came with the success of the Tourismo
The breakthrough for Hoşdere as a recognised manufacturer of buses and coaches came with the Tourismo. Production of the Mercedes-Benz O 403 began in 1994. This Mercedes-Benz coach was built in Turkey for the home market under the O 403 designation. For the export market, the model was available as the Mercedes-Benz O 350 Tourismo. When the Hoşdere plant was opened, in the presence of Turkey's President Süleyman Demirel, on 10 June 1995, a Mercedes-Benz O 350 Tourismo was driven onto the platform to the applause of the assembled guests. In the 20 years that have passed since the Tourismo O 350 was launched, more than 21,000 units of this model series have left the production line. That original high-deck model, 12 m in length, has given way to a sizeable family of nine different models in a bus segment that ranges from 10.3 to 14.0 m in length, some of them in right-hand-drive versions. Right from the beginning, the plant also produced the urban regular-service bus O 405 in both rigid and articulated variants alongside the Tourismo.
Growth of development responsibility and scope of production activities
However, the Tourismo alone is not responsible for the successful reputation of the Hoşdere plant. Today, some 3300 employees produce a full range of urban and rural regular-service buses as well as touring coaches under the Daimler brand names of Mercedes-Benz and Setra. Since early 2014, the S 415 UL business/S 416 UL business models of the latest addition to the product family, the Setra MultiClass 400, have been built at Hoşdere. While extolling the high product quality of the buses produced at the Turkish plant, Hartmut Schick also drew attention to the impressive educational level of the team at Hoşdere: “80 percent of our employees have professional further education qualifications, while further training in the various specialist disciplines is a natural step for our skilled workforce. Above all, though, I have been impressed by the very positive nature of the ongoing human integration and cooperation across the whole Daimler Buses business unit. There's a good example of this at management level: the head of our component plant at Holýšov in the Czech Republic is Turkish.”
The expansion of the product portfolio and the growing importance of the internationally co-ordinated development and production system for Daimler Buses have brought with them new challenges for Hoşdere in terms of overall technical responsibility. Alongside the core production tasks, the development responsibilities have also grown over the last two years. Today, the work of the design engineers at Hoşdere focuses mainly on two key areas. On the one hand there is the work on the bodyshell design on the other hand the work on the interior equipment and appointments for all integral buses that bear the Mercedes-Benz and Setra names. Hoşdere is then also the home base of the development team responsible for co-ordinating and carrying out all service accumulation and endurance testing activities for the integral bus models built by Daimler Buses.