Visiting a Mercedes-Benz factory has been on my to-do list since high school… maybe even before. Well, definitely before. I remember wanting to learn German language so I can work in the automotive industry while I was growing up in Ukraine long before my family moved to the US. More recently I remember seeing a course offered in college for a semester abroad in Stuttgart with Mercedes-Benz. I showed a ton of interest but as someone living on a permanent resident card I could not apply for the program without renouncing my Ukrainian citizenship. Apparently I could go study in Germany in the early 2000’s as a stateless person with a US green card, but not one with Ukrainian citizenship. Crazy shit!
Anyway to make a long story even longer, every time I volunteered in or around Germany I thought I’d take a side trip to one of the museums. Did I? Of course not… Germany is big. And Nurburgring is nowhere near Stuttgart. Even Frankfurt, where I transited a number of times flying Air Berlin to get to a Motorsport event, is a few hours away by train… so it didn’t happen until now. I used my cousin’s wedding in France as an excuse to do a side trip to Germany for a week of educational exploring. Visiting a bunch of factories and museums in Stuttgart and Munich.
Stuttgart is sort of a little big town with a sprawling suburban community most of which either directly or indirectly works for Daimler AG. I picked out my hotel to be strategically positioned for my week long plan of visiting all things automotive, first stop the Mercedes-Benz E and S-class factory in Sindelfengen which is about an hour away from downtown Stuttgart due west. Taking the train to Boblingen to catch the factory tour shuttle you pass many cargo trains carrying brand spanking new E and S classes to huge storage lots for shipping. Those trains are single level uncovered cars where you see beautiful shiny models glistening in the sun as they go by. New Jersey is a huge transit point for car manufacturers as well both arriving by ship from Europe and Asia as well as being shipped by those same ports internationally. We get a lot of train traffic near various ports by Secaucus, Newark or Elizabeth. But our trains are all covered up two story cars that you can’t see anything through by contrast.
Anyway, I arrived way early to take advantage of a museum before heading to Sindelfingen, read more about my visit to fantastic MotorWorld in the previous post. But even arriving at the Mercedes-Benz welcome center I gave myself plenty of extra time before my appointment to take in the aura of the place. This center actually acts as a point of delivery for customers choosing to pick up their vehicle from the factory whether locals or those doing European delivery from abroad, like the option available to buyers from the USA and elsewhere. There were plenty of those people… and me!
Both German and English tours are offered for which you must make an appointment. There’s a video presentation at the start of the tour in the welcome center and then a shuttle bus takes you around the huge manufacturing facility that takes up much of the town of Sindelfingen. You are shuttled along from building to building by bus because the distances are far to great to walk, and various production processes are performed in different factories in the complex. You pass lots of cool stuff to see along the way, and there are hundreds if not thousands of workers that you see on your journey working at the plant. Even when you travel back the workers are easy to spot wearing Mercedes-Benz factory uniforms as they travel home by train and other public transport.
You cannot take any pictures while at the factory which is understandable, though many videos exist on YouTube that show you exactly what you will see along the way. Every once and again you may see something that hasn’t been released to the public yet and that’s why you can’t take pictures. It was the same process at the St. Thomas Ontario Ford plant I got to visit many moons ago during my Ford Crown Victoria days… though obviously the Daimler factory was far more advanced. In fact I’m super happy I got to visit this year in 2019 because they have just completed a new more modern facility that will open to public tours in 2020 and I would want to come back and visit that in the future!
By the way there’s an American Mercedes-Benz factory now offering tours in Alabama. It costs a few bux to visit but probably worth it so next time I’m driving past it on the way to Tuscaloosa I’m definitely going to stop by.
As soon as you walk into the welcome center you are greeted by a beautiful modern DTM race car, much like the one I got to see when volunteering for DTM at Zandvoort. Your results may vary as Mercedes-AMG has pulled out of DTM recently. I went to register at the front desk to get my “ticket” card and was asked to wait by the huge model replica of the factory set up on the side where various car bits were on display along with processes the factory performs, from sheet metal press to paint spraying techniques. There was an unfinished car mounted to a device on the ceiling much like those used around the factory to move cars around through their assembly process. Directly opposite this area there was a busy restaurant serving tasty food and a gift shop where you can buy everything from accessories for your Mercedes to toys… like those expensive die cast cars wearing an accurate racing livery. Love the way they look but they are definitely not meant for Hot Wheels collector budgets… phew!
At the end of the two hour tour you are brought back to the welcome center. You can keep your protective goggles and the hi-vis vest that you must wear throughout the tour. As well as all the memories from watching cars come to life. Our tour guide was fantastic. She had spend many years working at this factory and was very knowledgeable about anything and everything my fellow tour goers had to ask her. One thing struck me as super interesting and I have not been able to confirm this information since trying to research… she claimed that the Mercedes-AMG GT3 race cars were not actually made by Mercedes in Germany but instead by their partner McLaren in Great Britain…. for real?
On a related note there is another facility that does AMG tours in the town where AMG is based in Affalterbach. However, as I found out thanks to a snobby prick on my Sindelfingen tour the only way to sing up for the AMG factory tour is to actually own an AMG car. Fair enough… I later found out it depends on who you know. As I will write in a later blog post a very cool reader of my blog whom I met in Stuttgart said the factory visit is quite doable with a local.
And there you have it folks… when in Stuttgart do check out the Mercedes-Benz factory nearby, it is well worth the effort!