IAN NORWELL VISITS THE HOME OF MERCEDES-BENZ CUSTOM TAILORED TRUCKS IN MOLSHEIM, WHERE THE SLT HEAVY HAULAGE CHASSIS ARE BUILT.
Large scale truck makers have a dilemma: to keep their production lines flowing in an orderly fashion, they need to keep their models as simple as possible, avoiding manual work and low-volume variations. But the market loves diversity and bespoke chassis... so what’s the solution?
The Mercedes-Benz truck manufacturing plant at Wörth, Karlsruhe, is the biggest in the world. Trucks have been rolling off the line there since 1965 and annual production first exceeded 100,000 chassis in the mid-seventies. But as the industry’s engineers met demand for more specialised chassis, something had to give. So in 2000, Mercedes-Benz opened its Custom Tailored Trucks (CTT) operation in Molsheim, France, to accommodate these niche products.
Whether or not a truck is too niche for a mainstream line like Wörth depends on various factors, including the length of production run and the number of hours of modification involved.
Up to 2000, the SLT’s predecessor, the Titan, was subcontracted to a local specialist, but since CTT opened, the SLT has been built there. And it’s very unlikely, says Georg Staskiewicz, global key account manager for the SLT, that it will ever attain sufficient volumes to justify a place on the line in Wörth. “It will always be a niche vehicle and with up to 250 hours of added hours at Molsheim, this looks like its permanent home,” he confirms.