25 years of the Rippershausen plant - a look back

Shortly after German reunification


When the Willi Elbe Group founded a new location in Walldorf in 1992, German reunification had taken place only very recently. Several events and circumstances led to this pioneering decision by the company, taken during a period that was especially exciting both politically and economically. On the one hand, Mercedes-Benz Trucks, already a longtime customer, was planning to equip vehicles from existing GDR production with cabs manufactured by Mercedes-Benz Wörth in the then IFA plant in Ludwigsfelde. As part of the economic development program "Aufbau Ost", the Willi Elbe Group was asked if it had any interest in working together - in connection with the establishment of a production facility in East Germany. At a conference in the Ludwigsfede plant, contact was made with the VEB Gelenkwellenwerk Stadtilm-Thüringen. The Willi Elbe Group needed at that time additional manufacturing capacity for joint flanges. This was available there on a large scale.


At the same time, a request was received from Volkswagen regarding drive shafts for its successful Golf model at the VW Zwickau location. The company Robotron Meiningen had initially offered to manufacture parts for subcontractors at its plant in Walldorf, as a supplier to the Willi Elbe Group. Talks with plant director Günther Langguth, who later worked in Rippershausen himself, led to a different solution. Via the Treuhandanstalt, the corresponding part of the plant in Walldorf was acquired. Former Robotron employees were able to continue working seamlessly.

Successful search for a site


The physical proximity to Tamm and Pfedelbach was also one of the decisive factors in favor of Walldorf. Within South Thuringia , the then managing director Günter H. Elbe visited various locations, held intensive discussions with municipal authorities and company representatives, and took a lot of trouble over choosing a location. "What was important was that it would be possible to transport the goods back and forth in just one day with our own truck. And it was foreseeable that a motorway link would also be built in the short term, Günther H. Elbe recalls. Attractive investment allowances for machines from the "Aufbau Ost" program became available quite quickly. Without any major delays, the production of connection forks and peg carriers as well as complete joints began – laying the foundations for today's production.

Just four years after the plant was founded in Walldorf with 11 employees, the good order situation necessitated construction of the present-day location in nearby Rippershausen. Today, more than 160 employees work there on a production area of ​​around 9,000 sq m. Metalworking, hydroforming, state-of-the-art molding, linked assembly for high-volume manufacturing, laser welding, and plastic injection molding technology – what used to be an interim solution in a former GDR enterprise has developed into the production plant of an internationally successful automotive supplier.