Daimler is one of the most important foreign investors in Romania and its local subsidiaries are an important part of the group’s global powertrain production compound. In the Star Assembly, seven- and eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes are assembled, as well as nine-speed transmissions for Mercedes-Benz. At Star Transmission headquarters, gears, mechanically machined components for motors, transmissions, high pressure pipes, and steering systems are produced. In addition, here is the Technology Centre, as well as a training area. The Star Assembly Subsidiary was set up in Sebeș in 2013, and the five-speed automatic gearbox production was launched in the same year. The new 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox is now produced in the same space, starting in 2019.
Automotive Today talked to Klaus Eichhorn, who took over the general management of Daimler AG Star Transmission and Star Assembly subsidiaries as of 1 September 2018, to find out more about his plans and goals.
How would you describe your first year as the CEO of Daimler’s subsidiaries in Romania?
For me personally, the position as managing director of two companies outside Germany was of course a new venture. This leadership task has thus a different dimension compared to my previous responsibilities in assembly and logistics. To this end, it gave me the opportunity to represent Daimler in the region as CEO. Prior to my assignment here, I was in charge of Quality Management of the Mercedes-Benz SUV division in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the United States. Tuscaloosa in the US and Sebeș and Cugir in Romania have certainly gone through very different developments in recent years, which are still noticeable today. Nevertheless, there is a common denominator between the two worlds: the motivation and enthusiasm of the employees as part of the global powertrain production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
We are all part of the large Daimler family. The work in both plants, Sebeș and Cugir was and is shaped by exciting challenges and great colleagues. Since the beginning of my assignment, all the things I have experienced – the production, the processes, the products, the team – contributed to a positive learning process. My predecessor Falk Pruscha handed over the company in top condition and I wish to maintain these high standards and continue the company legacy. It is an honour for me to have had the opportunity to take over the management of these two plants and take part in the future viability and success of this company.
My assignment here has already been marked by two highlights: one was the successful transmission-remanufacturing project officially celebrated in November 2018, a project made possible through the hard work and dedication of many competent and skilled people. Another high point was the integration of a new product into the transmission portfolio, namely, the 8G-DCT transmission model launched at the beginning of this year; we take much pride in this accomplishment, as we are the only plant in the world to assemble it. I am confident that all future potential developments here will be just as fruitful and rewarding as the previous ones.
Under which conditions is Daimler going to expand its activities in Romania?
Any new investment decision relies on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, namely the conditions of the surrounding areas, the existence of a good infrastructure (road, railways), availability of resources (energy, water, gas), supplier landscape, qualification of the workforce, quality of life, economic climate, and support of the Romanian authorities. The proximity to universities and the airport in Sibiu distinguishes these two locations. In addition, we have had very good experiences with the local, regional, and national authorities. This standing partnership between Romania and Daimler is a proof of trust, quality, performance, and efficiency in providing top products to Mercedes-Benz car plants throughout the world.
What are the biggest challenges for Star Assembly and Star Transmission in Romania?
We focus our production activities on growth, flexibility, and efficiency, prioritizing the top quality of our products. Flexibility is a decisive factor of success; this is why we strive to deliver the best products in a timely manner and complement optimally the worldwide demand of automatic transmissions. Competence, agility, and strong motivation are key factors to our accomplishments, especially in a constantly changing market. This is why one of our definite challenges is to stay flexible and global. Star Assembly & Star Transmission have come a long way since 2001 when Star Transmission was founded in Cugir, proving that we are a successful and trustworthy business, as well as one of the major players within the Romanian automotive industry. We are constantly improving our processes to ensure the quality of our parts, components, and automatic transmissions according to the stringent requirements of Mercedes-Benz. None of these would be possible without the will and dedication of our team and we are proud to be part of each milestone in the history of the global powertrain production network.
How would you describe the relationship with the local and central authorities?
Our cooperation with the local and national authorities, characterized by partnership and trust, is a very positive one. We thank our stakeholders for the open dialogue regarding the Group’s operations in Romania. Our partners fulfilled their commitment towards Daimler and we are looking forward to continuing this cooperative dialogue on our various operative and strategic topics. Their commitment is one of the most important reasons behind the success of our projects and continues to contribute decisively to the success of our locations in Romania. A resounding example of this is the joint efforts to implement a dual training course in the County of Alba. The goal of dual training is to provide young people in the region of Alba with good career prospects while ensuring the securing of young talent for Star Transmission and Star Assembly. Since September 2013, young people have been trained in technical professions within company premises such as electrical mechanics and CNC operators.
What are the priorities for Star Assembly and Star Transmission in your mandate?
In a constantly changing mobility environment, we focus our attention on our employees. At the same time, it is important for us to ensure the flexibility and efficiency of our quality products. We want to further strengthen the trust that Daimler has given us, so that the work done here optimally supplements the global powertrain production. At the same time, we want to take the necessary measures and actions to advance the development of our cultural organization – this is a global prerequisite of Daimler. Finally, it is important for us to be active and send a positive signal to the community through CSR measures and strategies for professional and economic growth. We follow a clear strategic path, while relying on two supporting pillars: efficient and flexible production, and our responsibility towards the global powertrain production network of Mercedes-Benz Cars. We are currently manufacturing two automatic transmissions in Sebeș as well as components for engines and transmissions in Cugir. We rely on efficient, flexible, and innovative production, thus looking very confidently into the future.
How many employees do you currently have in both subsidiaries? How many people do you wish to hire by the end of the year?
We currently employ more than 3,000 people at our facilities in Sebeș and Cugir. The availability of qualified personnel in Romania was one of the factors that we had already taken into account as part of the location decision. The hiring strategy has followed a well-set course in the past and we expect the same in the future.