To enhance Mercedes-Benz’s research and development capabilities in China, Beijing Benz, a joint venture between BAIC Motor and Mercedes-Benz that manufactures automobiles, will appoint a new president with extensive R&D experience. Jörg Bartels, currently the Vice President of Vehicle Integration & Concepts at Mercedes-Benz, will replace Arno van der Merwe as the President and CEO of Beijing Benz on July 1st. This was reported by Caijing Auto on April 23rd.
Several insiders at Beijing Benz have reported that Jörg Bartels has extensive experience in research and development, while Arno van der Merwe specializes in production and manufacturing. The company’s emphasis on local R&D in China is believed to be a significant factor behind this decision.
Jörg Bartels, who previously oversaw the development of the Mercedes-Benz MFA 2 vehicle platform and served as vice president in the product group for Mercedes-Benz’s first pure electric platform EVA, has a wealth of experience in automotive engineering. Arno van der Merwe also brings extensive expertise to his role, having worked extensively in production and manufacturing. Since assuming the position of President and CEO at Beijing Benz in April 2017, he has transformed it into Mercedes-Benz’s largest global production base. Under his leadership, from 2017 to 2022, sales of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars in China increased significantly from 587,000 units to 751,000 units.
Between 2020 and 2022, Arno van der Merwe and his family have been residing in China to tackle the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions. His primary objective has been to ensure uninterrupted production operations at Beijing Benz.
Mercedes-Benz’s current strategy emphasizes the importance of enhancing local research and development capabilities in China. During this year’s Auto Shanghai, over 40 senior R&D executives from Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Germany visited China. Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management at Mercedes-Benz, stayed in China for three weeks to gain a deeper understanding of their largest global market.
Mercedes-Benz announced in July 2022 that its Shanghai R&D center has started operating. While the Beijing R&D center concentrates on vehicle engineering, the Shanghai R&D center will focus solely on research and innovation related to intelligent connectivity and autonomous driving. To enhance Mercedes-Benz’s research and development capabilities in China, it plans to expand its Chinese R&D team to 2,000 people by the end of 2023 – almost twice as many as in 2020.