The first new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has officially rolled off the line in the lead plant in Rastatt, Germany, triggering production of the brand’s new generation of compact cars in five plants on three continents.

Revealed at the Geneva International Motor Show in February 2018, the fourth-generation A-Class hatch is scheduled to arrive in South Africa in the third quarter of 2018.

The new A-Class is the first model of Mercedes-Benz’s fourth generation of compact cars. The compact car family currently comprises five models (the A-Class, B-Class, CLA, CLA Shooting Brake and GLA), but the Stuttgart-based brand says “in future there will be eight models”, confirming a report from February 2018.

As the lead plant, the Rastatt factory is responsible for control and planning as well as quality and supplier management on a global basis.

“Mercedes-Benz Cars starts an unprecedented ramp-up cascade with the A-Class. In our global production network, we can ramp up the production of our vehicles in proven top quality and supply the global market even faster. Using modern industry 4.0 technologies our plants are becoming even more flexible and efficient,” said Markus Schäfer, member of the divisional board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, production and supply chain.

Thomas Geier, site manager at the Rastatt plant, added that his team had done "a great job in the last months”.

“We have mastered the demanding production programme of the current generation of compact cars, successfully completed the ramp-up of the new A-Class at our plant and at the same time optimally prepared our colleagues in the other compact car plants,” Geier said.

Mercedes-Benz says the new training centre at the Rastatt plant is a “central qualification area for all compact car factories”, with up to 240 employees training simultaneously.

The Rastatt factory has around 6 500 employees and built more than 330 000 vehicles in 2017.