Economic Observer reporter Liu Xiaolin The three major German luxury car manufacturers, BBA (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi), held the commissioning or groundbreaking ceremony of a new plant in China at the same time, which has not happened in the past ten years.



From June 13 to June 28, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi successively announced that they will usher in the stage of large-scale production of electric vehicles in China. On June 13, Mercedes-Benz's latest electric car, the EQE, which has not yet been launched, rolled off the production line, becoming the 4 millionth complete vehicle put into production by Beijing Benz; on June 23, BMW's largest investment project in China so far, the Lida Plant in Shenyang, was put into production. , the factory has the capacity to produce 100% electric vehicles. BMW's first pure electric mid-size sports sedan, the all-new BMWi3, has been successfully put into production at the factory; on June 28, Audi's first production base in China dedicated to the production of pure electric vehicles—— The foundation stone of Audi FAW's new PPE plant will be laid in Changchun.



11.9 billion yuan, 15 billion yuan, and 35.8 billion yuan are the "costs" of the three factories. In the era of electric smart cars, where the old and new camps are fighting fiercely, the three giants use this method to convey their attitudes and strengths.



In the past few years, facing the conquest of new car brands such as Tesla and Weilai in the field of high-end electric vehicles, the three German luxury car giants are in a state of continuous updating and accelerating the layout of new energy in China. In order to maintain the main position in the luxury electric vehicle market, BBA has put into production new energy vehicles by transforming existing fuel vehicle factories in the early stage, and most of the first-generation products that have been put into production are also the first generation of oil-to-electricity products. With the successful research and development of the new electric vehicle platform and the release of a new generation of products, the construction of a new energy exclusive factory or production line in China has become the first step of BBA's new strategy.



However, these three factories are endowed with meanings far beyond an ordinary automobile production base. The first is the advanced level of the factory itself: Beijing Benz Shunyi Factory is benchmarking against Mercedes-Benz's most modern "zero carbon" benchmark factory in the world - the No. 56 factory in Sindelfingen. The manufacturing process of Mercedes-Benz's flagship S-Class has been secretly "lurking"; The Rida plant has reached a new level of digitalization. It is the first plant in the BMW Group that has been planned and simulated completely in a virtual environment from the very beginning. BMW has put forward the concept of "industrial metaverse" accordingly; Audi's PPE plant in Changchun will Entering a more pure luxury bloodline for Audi, PPE is a pure electric platform jointly developed by Audi and Porsche, on which Audi's next-generation electric vehicles will be launched.



In addition to the demonstration of the right to speak at the manufacturing level of "redefining automobile production", in the environment of the automobile industry with many uncertainties, the three luxury electric vehicle factories invested by tens of billions of dollars have also become a sign of BBA entering a new strategic period of joint venture in China. : After the equity ratio of joint venture car companies was released, BMW and Audi have successively achieved the demands of holding joint venture companies in China through different paths, and it has become inevitable to increase investment in China; BAIC's dependence on Mercedes-Benz has given both parties a joint venture relationship. Changes provide possibilities at multiple levels, and the strength of Mercedes-Benz's investment in China determines the size of this possibility. Therefore, under the new joint venture format, the three new factories project the re-calibration of BBA's investment principles and investment interests in China.



Three new plants



The Beijing Benz factory located in Zhaoquanying Town, Shunyi District, Beijing, has always been a mysterious existence to the outside world. The industry is well known as the first factory of Beijing Benz in Yizhuang, Daxing. On June 13, the 4 millionth vehicle produced by Mercedes-Benz in China rolled off the assembly line at the Shunyi plant, and the new plant was exposed for the first time. On June 16, the automobile manufacturing base known as "Shunyi No. 56" was opened to the media for the first time.



Beijing Benz Shunyi Plant was established in 2018. It was formerly the manufacturing base of Senova, a former mid-to-high-end brand under BAIC Group. It will be put into production in 2020 after completing strategic restructuring and transformation.



There are two pieces of information that make this plant unique: First, the EQE, which just rolled off the production line at Beijing Benz Shunyi Plant, is the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz's main electric vehicle. It is built on the basis of Mercedes-Benz's new-generation pure electric platform EVA2.0 and will be launched in the second half of this year. , which means that the Shunyi factory has the ability to produce Mercedes-Benz's latest electric platform models; second, in the official definition, this factory is the benchmark for Mercedes-Benz's most modern "zero-carbon" benchmark factory in the world - the No. 56 factory in Sindelfingen.



Compared with the other three pure electric models - EQA pure electric SUV, EQB pure electric SUV and EQC pure electric SUV, which have been domestically produced in Beijing Benz Yizhuang Plant before, the EQE, which is positioned as a medium and large pure electric car, is the first to be born in China. The domestic Mercedes-Benz electric car on the new generation of electric car platform has attracted much attention because it projected the design factor of Mercedes-Benz's flagship electric model EQS.



Beijing Benz Shunyi Plant



Corresponding to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class fuel vehicle, the EQE is considered to be an "inflection point-level model" that will help Mercedes-Benz truly open up the electric vehicle market in China. The "blue" production line in the Shunyi plant to prepare for the production of more Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles has also become a sign of the overall acceleration of Beijing Benz's electric plan.



The BMW Brilliance Lida Plant, which was officially completed and put into operation on June 23, also came with the "crown": the plant is located in Tiexi District, Shenyang City, covering an area of ​​2.9 million square meters. It is BMW's largest investment project in China so far; A digital factory that builds and implements production management with virtual simulation technology; it is a new energy factory that can switch the production mode of 100% electric vehicles at any time.



BMW Brilliance Lida Plant



The completion of the Rida factory has been given at least three meanings, first: the pace of localization of BMW electric vehicles will expand rapidly; second: the era of "industrial metaverse" has come, and automobile manufacturing is being redefined; third: BMW is And will continue to increase investment in China, Shenyang has become BMW's largest manufacturing base in the world.



Seeing that Mercedes-Benz and BMW have announced new factory matters first, Audi has also begun to act in advance. On the night when the Rida plant was put into production, Audi's official public account posted a warm-up message - "A major milestone in Audi's electrification strategy in China: Audi FAW New Energy Vehicle Co., Ltd. is about to start construction." Audi announced that the new plant in Changchun is about to lay the foundation stone, with a planned annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles. It plans to start production of electric vehicles based on the PPE (Premium Platform Electric) platform specially designed for the Chinese market by the end of 2024. transformation".



Audi FAW PPE factory plan


Different from the new factories of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, this factory under the name of the new energy joint venture company Audi FAW New Energy Automobile Co., Ltd. (Audi FAW for short) is an exclusive factory for electric vehicles and the final form of many future car factories. .


unusual background


The three new factories sounded the clarion call for BBA to fully enter the competition in China's electric vehicle market. However, the backgrounds of its birth are different, and it reflects the new state of joint ventures of the three giants in China.


The particularity of the BMW Brilliance Rida plant and the Audi FAW PPE plant is the most obvious. In the 20-minute online press conference at the Lida factory, the most common scenes besides robots and digital, intelligent production processes and factory management are the emphasis on BMW's home in China and Shenyang as home.


The outside world clearly perceives that BMW's reliance on Shenyang and its sense of belonging to the Chinese market are constantly escalating. All of this is considered to be closely related to the fact that BMW officially became the first foreign-controlled traditional passenger car joint venture four months ago.


From February 11, 2022, BMW Group announced that its stake in BMW Brilliance will be increased from 50% to 75%, and Brilliance China indirectly holds the remaining 25%. At the same time, BMW's new joint venture contract in China also includes: the extension of the joint venture period to 2040, and BMW will continue to invest in several projects in Liaoning. These projects include that BMW will continue to expand its production capacity in China, introduce more pure electric models for domestic production, and will continue to increase the scale of domestic procurement in China. In 2021, BMW Brilliance's domestic purchases total nearly 33 billion yuan.


In fact, the investment promised by BMW for the successful holding of the joint venture was initiated several years ago. The Rida plant has a two-year construction period and will start construction in 2020. Just three months before the production of the Lida plant, the product upgrade project of the BMW Brilliance Dadong Plant has just been completed, and the new BMW X5 has been put into production smoothly.


Taking control of BMW Brilliance brings BMW not only a positive impact of 7 billion to 8 billion euros (approximately RMB 50.7 billion to 57.8 billion) after financial consolidation, but also a change in BMW's global decision-making and deployment.


The Lida Plant is BMW Brilliance's third plant in Shenyang. With the completion and commissioning of the Lida Plant, the production capacity of BMW's Shenyang production base has increased to 830,000 vehicles per year. Shenyang has officially become BMW's largest automobile manufacturing base in the world. Shenyang will be built into BMW's global auto export base. This is completely different from the previous meaning of "BMW's largest market in the world".


The Audi-FAW PPE plant is even more historic: it is the launch symbol of Audi-FAW, a new joint venture between Audi and FAW. This can be seen in the official Weibo announcement on the evening of June 23. Audi's message to the outside world is not focused on "the foundation stone laying of the PPE factory", but "Audi FAW New Energy Vehicle Co., Ltd. (Audi FAW for short) will hold a groundbreaking ceremony in Changchun at the end of June."


On January 18, 2021, FAW Group signed an agreement with Audi Automobile Co., Ltd. (Audi) and the Changchun Municipal People's Government, announcing the establishment of a new joint venture, Audi FAW. Among them, Audi and Volkswagen Group will hold 60% of the shares of the joint venture, which will become Audi's first holding joint venture in China. The agreement also stipulates the investment plan of the PPE platform (PremiumPlatformElectric) factory.


Against the background of Audi's complex North-South joint venture disputes in China over the past five years, this new joint venture is considered another game outcome. The warm-up draft on June 23 stated that Audi invested about 2.6 billion euros (about 18.35 billion yuan) in the Audi FAW project, including two items: the establishment of a new company and a new production base. According to information from the report of the 12th Party Congress of Jilin Province, the Audi FAW project has a total investment of 35.8 billion yuan. Energy vehicle industry cluster.



Compared with the joint-venture control demands that BMW and Audi have already realized, Mercedes-Benz's equity demands in China are more low-key, and its progress is not known to the outside world. However, after the joint venture share ratio was released, Mercedes-Benz has never been absent from industry analysis related to this topic. It is worth pondering that in December 2021, Beijing Automobile Group Co., Ltd. announced that it has become the largest shareholder of Daimler by continuing to invest 9.98% of the shares of Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz parent company) in 2019. At the same time, Daimler Group also holds 9.55% of BAIC Group's shares in Hong Kong-listed companies, and holds 2.46% of BAIC Group's shares in A-share listed companies. According to this, the cross-shareholding of the two parties will help boost the development of the Chinese market. High-quality development and long-term success of the market.


In the interpretation of this move, there are still many persistent views that this is paving the way for Mercedes-Benz to expand its shareholding ratio in Beijing Benz. Among the three German luxury car brands, Mercedes-Benz's electric vehicles are the fastest in domestic production, and the industry has not given up on whether this will extend the new joint venture model and pattern.


Redefining car production


The new energy vehicle factories that BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have invested heavily to build and put into operation also reflect the innovation of the production and manufacturing model brought by electric, intelligent, green and digital to the global automotive industry as they gradually bid farewell to fuel vehicles. And under the pressure of the zero carbon goal, the reorganization of the supply chain and value chain from the source of automobile production.


The new energy factories of the three luxury car brands in China have brought together and will bring together the world's top production technology and management models of each brand. "Digitalization, flexible production, sustainability, and environmental protection" are the common concepts of the three new factories.


Taking Beijing Benz as an example, the Shunyi plant is benchmarked against Benz's world-leading modern production base, Factory No. 56, and has introduced Benz's MO360 digital production system to seamlessly link production processes such as intelligent production, intelligent logistics, intelligent quality, and intelligent maintenance. , the production system is organically integrated with robots and vehicles, forming a complete digital ecosystem for automobile production and manufacturing.


At the same time, with the application of general intelligent technology and flexible processes, the Shunyi plant currently has the ability to produce fuel vehicles and new energy vehicles across levels and models. Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen's "Plant 56" is even more famous for its production and operation with zero carbon emissions. In this regard, Beijing Benz said that the Shunyi plant has not yet reached the zero-carbon level, but this is an established goal. At present, the Shunyi plant has adopted various energy-saving and environmental protection measures to greatly reduce energy consumption, including laying photovoltaic panels on the top of the workshop. .


Similarly, BMW Brilliance's Lida Plant is the landing of the BMWiFACTORY strategy, which aims to provide a global solution for the transformation of production networks in the electric age. The Rida factory holds the three characteristics of "lean, green and digital". It is the first factory in the BMW Group that has been planned and simulated in a virtual environment from the very beginning, and has built a real "industrial metaverse" factory.


In addition, the BMW Group has proposed a goal of reducing the carbon emissions in the entire life cycle of an average bicycle by 40% by 2030 compared with 2019, of which the production level must reduce carbon emissions by 80%. Therefore, the concept of sustainable development is also reflected in every corner of the Rida factory. Examples include using 100% renewable electricity and having solar panels covering an area of ​​290,000 square meters.


Regarding the new Audi FAW PPE plant, which is about to start a two-year construction period, Audi said that since September 2020, Audi has produced Audi e-tron through the FAW-Volkswagen Changchun base, but the PPE plant is Audi’s first dedicated pure-play plant in China. A factory for electric vehicle production that will set new standards in digitalization, efficiency and sustainability.


It is reported that the construction of the new factory will draw on experience from other Audi factories around the world and continuously upgrade manufacturing technology. In the future, all business processes at the production site will be fully networked through a completely new information technology architecture. In terms of sustainability, the PPE factory has clearly stated that it will achieve carbon neutrality in automobile production, and its path is through the introduction of a cross-regional environmental program "Mission: Zero".

Urgent transformation pressure

The reasons for the three major luxury car brands to collectively deploy new energy capacity in China are the same - the huge pressure to transform and achieve new energy goals. 2025 is the first important acceptance time for all car companies' new energy plans, and the three giants have also entered a state of fierce competition.


Mercedes-Benz announced last year that its transformation strategy has changed from "electricity first" to "full electric", with a clearer goal: starting from 2025, all new models released by Mercedes-Benz will be built on a pure electric platform; in 2030, under conditions If the market allows, Mercedes-Benz will be fully prepared for full electrification. As a manifestation of its determination to be "full electric", in April this year, Mercedes-Benz launched two flagship electric vehicles, EQS and EQSSUV, on the new EVA2.0 pure electric platform, taking the lead in the flagship luxury electric market.


BMW's plan in China is to present five pure electric vehicles to Chinese customers in 2022; by 2025, it will increase the proportion of pure electric vehicle sales to 1/4, and welcome the arrival of "new generation" models. Audi's goal is to have more than 20 electric models in the product lineup by 2025, with 40% of new car sales coming from new energy vehicles, and to achieve an annual output of 800,000 electric vehicles by 2025. Audi expects that China's high-end car market will grow to 5.8 million by 2030, of which the electric car market will reach 3.1 million. According to the plan, three models of Audi A6e-tron and Audi Q6e-tron series will be the first to be put into production at the PPE plant.


Two sets of Mercedes-Benz data have been compared, and this set of data also reflects the common anxiety of traditional luxury car brands: Last year, Mercedes-Benz sold more than 2.4 million new cars worldwide, accounting for nearly one-third of the Chinese market. The cumulative sales of the EQ series in the world exceeded 49,000 units, and the sales in the Chinese market were only over 6,000 units, accounting for less than 15%.


As the world's largest new energy vehicle market, the Chinese market is an important support for BBA to achieve its electrification goals. The ultimate goal of BBA's investment in electric production capacity in China is to break its dull performance at the competitive end of the market. Under the new joint venture format, after the top manufacturing bases are established, the localized development of the electric vehicle supply chain and intelligent innovation technology will be the main path for shortening the "intelligent generation gap" between the three luxury cars and local new car brands.


In addition, the timetable for carbon neutrality is clear for both Germany and China. Germany plans to be carbon neutral by 2045 and China by 2060. Under the pressure of time crunch and the huge cost of carbon emissions exceeding the standard, the three luxury car companies have started the decarbonization transformation from products to production on a global scale.


It is worth noting that the current electric vehicle market in Europe is rapidly expanding. Not only BMW, but also many multinational car companies have plans to use China as their electric vehicle export base.