The van plant in Ludwigsfelde, south of Berlin, has a long automotive history. The town was an industrial location as far back as the 1930s and it began to produce commercial vehicles in 1965. It is said that the residents of “motor city” Ludwigsfelde have gasoline in their blood.
Early one morning in November 1989, many of the city’s residents entered the halls of the Volkseigener Betrieb (VEB/Publicly Owned Enterprise) Ludwigsfelde. The employees themselves didn’t know how long they would still go to work in the industrial plant because the Berlin Wall had fallen just a few weeks earlier and, after exulting in the initial euphoria, many East German citizens were beginning to fear for their future. The days when more than 10,000 people worked at the plant were long gone. To this was added the political upheaval, which had serious consequences for the publicly owned enterprise in Ludwigsfelde. The business began to run into financial difficulties. After the sales markets in the former Eastern Bloc disappeared, the truck plant had to cease production in late 1990. The facility was on the verge of collapse.
New start in 1991
However, Daimler believed in the location’s future, so the plant began to closely cooperate with the then Daimler-Benz AG. The fresh start not only brightened the plant’s prospects, it also opened up well-deserved opportunities for the people, the town, and the entire region. In the first few years of its involvement, Daimler-Benz invested almost 300 million deutschmarks in the Ludwigsfelde plant. The facility created new trainee positions, production halls, and secure jobs. Many people sought to gain the latter during these uncertain times. The first Mercedes-Benz truck, an LN2, rolled off the assembly line in early February 1991. Beginning in 1994, Daimler-Benz turned the Ludwigsfelde plant into a wholly-owned subsidiary known as Mercedes-Benz Ludwigsfelde GmbH. Two years later, the facility started to series produce the VARIO van.
The history of Mercedes-Benz’ Ludwigsfelde plant
The facility was built after World War II. Motor scooters, off-road vehicles, diesel-powered pallet jacks, and speedboat engines rolled off its production lines. In December 1962, the facility was turned into a truck plant. The East German government invested more than 230 million ostmarks in the construction of the 72,000 square meter production and assembly hall. The plant in Ludwigsfelde was the first major automotive investment in East Germany.
However, the history of the Ludwigsfelde location reaches back longer than that to the time of National Socialism. Daimler-Benz first established itself in the region in the 1930s. Ludwigsfelde’s industrial development commenced in January 1936, with the groundbreaking ceremony for the Daimler-Benz Flugmotorenwerk Genshagen (Daimler-Benz’ Genshagen aircraft engine plant), which is today the site of Mercedes-Benz’ Ludwigsfelde facility. Prisoners of war were forced to work in German businesses during World War II. Forced labourers and prisoners of war also worked at the Daimler-Benz Flugmotorenwerk Genshagen during the war. Daimler has intensively investigated its history during National Socialist rule. In the 1980s, it made its corporate archives accessible for scholarly research and commissioned independent historians from the Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte (Business History Society) to research this period of the company’s history. The Group accepts that it is historically and morally responsible for the forced labor in its facilities during the time of National Socialism. The company is also involved in German industry’s “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” foundation, which, among other things, has provided humanitarian assistance to former forced labourers.
With around 2,000 employees, the Ludwigsfelde plant today is one of the biggest industrial employers in Brandenburg and Daimler’s fourth-largest van assembly plant worldwide. Thanks to its efficiency and innovations, the Ludwigsfelde plant is one of the Group’s most modern locations. The location’s production history has been shaped by a variety of products, which have repeatedly changed the factory’s appearance. The Mercedes-Benz plant in Ludwigsfelde now specializes exclusively in the production of large vans. The Sprinter has been rolling off the assembly line in Ludwigsfelde since 2006. A completely new manufacturing line containing automated production equipment was constructed for the model at the plant. The Sprinter is now on the road in more than 130 countries with sales of over 3.7 million units since its market launch in 1995. The Sprinter is thus one of the most successful commercial vehicles and one of the bestsellers in the Daimler product range. As was the case back then, Daimler firmly believes in the future of Ludwigsfelde as a production location. One out of five employees at Mercedes-Benz Werk Ludwigsfelde GmbH today was already part of the workforce 25 years ago. Since then, they have each in their own way helped to make the facility’s relaunch a success. In spite of all the ups and downs, the workforce in Ludwigsfelde has never let anything get them down. In “motor city” Ludwigsfelde, today’s employees not only have gasoline in their blood, they also carry the Mercedes star in their hearts.