FRANKFURT, July 16 (Reuters) - Daimler will invest another 600 million euros ($734.6 million) by the end of 2013 in its Rastatt plant in Germany, where it will add a third shift starting in October to meet demand for its line of compact Mercedes-Benz premium cars.
The investment will fund a second phase of expansion for Rastatt, bringing total capital expenditure to 1.2 billion euros, Daimler said on Monday.
"By 2020 at the latest we want Mercedes-Benz to be the number one in the premium segment, also in terms of vehicle sales," Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche said in a speech in Rastatt on the occasion of the production start of the new A-Class hatchback
"And here our new compacts are among our best weapons in this product offensive. Over the next ten years the global market for premium compacts will grow by almost 4 million vehicles," he continued.
According to a Daimler spokeswoman, that would lead to a premium compact market of about 10 million vehicles in 2021.
Starting in October a third shift will be added to the plant in Rastatt and 21 additional shifts are planned, mainly in the first half of next year. Mercedes production chief Wolfgang Bernhard said the plant would be running at full tilt even after the second expansion phase is completed.
"I read recently that 40 percent of the car plants in the EU are operating at a loss. I can't confirm that figure but I can confirm that Rastatt definitely is not one of them," Bernhard said.
$1 = 0.8167 euros Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner