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Daimler to produce first in-house electric motor at Berlin plant

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By Victoria Waldersee

BERLIN (Reuters) -Daimler will produce the first in-house electric motor at its oldest plant in Berlin, the carmaker said on Thursday, providing relief to workers worried that the diesel motor production site was on the brink of deep job cuts.

Workers who feared for their positions after Daimler said in September 2020 its Berlin site would end production of the 6-cylinder diesel motor within a year would also be offered retraining in software and coding, the German company said.

Around 450 of the plant's 2,300-odd workers have applied to attend a pilot 160-hour training course in software development, works council chairman Michael Rahmel said on a press call, with around fifteen selected for the first round of training.

Investment in the 120-year-old Berlin-Marienfelde plant, previously pinned at a two-digit million euro amount, will rise to a low three-digit million euro amount in the next six years, Daimler said.

The motor, known as an axial-flux motor and designed by the British startup YASA which Daimler acquired earlier this year, weighs a fraction of its diesel equivalent and can boost the range of an EV by up to 7%, YASA's founder Tim Woolmer told Reuters in July.

Woolmer said at the time that Daimler had briefed YASA to bring costs down in future iterations of its motor so the carmaker could use them across its entire EV range.

The e-motor is simpler to produce than its diesel equivalent, meaning the plant will eventually require less workers - but the exact number of future job losses was not yet clear, head of production Joerg Burzer said on a press call. A start date for production of the motor was not provided.

The digital training campus, which Daimler partnered with Siemens in March to develop and which will go live in 2022, would also create new jobs, Burzer said.

"If we make an effort here in coming years, there could even be more jobs than before," head of IG Metall Berlin Jan Otto said.

Production of the 6-cylinder diesel motor and some components would continue at the factory in the short-term but was being wound down, Burzer and union representatives said.

The factory's employees are guaranteed their positions until the beginning of 2030 under an existing union agreement.

"A year ago, we didn't know what would happen at the plant. Today we're embarking on what will hopefully be a successful transformation with our heads held high," Michael Rahmel, works council chairman at Berlin-Marienfelde, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by David Evans and Kirsten Donovan)

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