The 500,000th car is a long wheelbase C-class, a derivative specially developed for China

The 500,000th car is a long wheelbase C-class, a derivative specially developed for China

A long-wheelbase C-Class was the 500,000th China Mercedes-Benz to be built at the Beijing Benz Automotive (BBAC) joint venture.

About half were made within the last two years, highlighting rapid growth at the factory. Production is scheduled to double from 2015.

Local partner Beijing Automotive was involved in a joint venture producing Jeeps as far back as 1983 and also has a JV with Hyundai Motor, Beijing Hyundai. Following the Daimler-Chrysler merger, talks about local Mercedes production commenced in 2003, plant construction began in 2004 and local C- and E-class output began in 2006. The JV also produced Chrysler models but, after the DaimlerChrysler partnership unravelled, Chrysler pulled out and the current Beijing Benz JV was formed.

In 2013, the JV began operations at the first Mercedes engine plant outside Germany and, last month, opened an engineering and design centre.

"Continuous investment in localisation is one of our key growth drivers for Mercedes-Benz’s future in China, and it is clear proof of our confidence in and dedication to this strategically important market,” said Daimler's China manager Hubertus Troska.

"We are determined to pick up the pace even more as we just signed a EUR1bn agreement with our partner for the localisation of further compact car models.

"BBAC is undoubtedly on its path to become the largest Mercedes-Benz passenger car plant worldwide."

Last year, around 120,000 vehicles were made locally, accounting for about half of Mercedes-Benz’s total sales volume in China. By the end of next year, capacity should be "reaching well beyond 200,000 units", Daimler said.

The latest (unique to China) LWB C-Class was launched last August and the GLA compact SUV goes into production early in 2015.

The two shareholders are jointly investing EUR4bn in the company to the end of 2015.

The engine plant makes four and six cylinder engines for the locally produced passenger cars and also vans built by Daimler’s local joint venture Fujian Benz Automotive (FBAC). The flexible production line has an annual capacity of 250,000 units in its first phase. Higher numbers will be planned in line with the ongoing growth in unit sales.