"Conceived in Germany, born in China"


The EVION was developed at our headquarters in Harsewinkel and is manufactured in our Chinese factory in Gaomi. On a recent visit there, our Director of Product Unit C-F, Bernd Kleffmann, and Director of Quality Management, Sebastian Pleuler, spoke to General Manager Dr Xi Chen about the new combine harvester, its development during the corona pandemic – and the significance of China for CLAAS.

Mr Pleuler, Mr Kleffmann, this is your first visit to the Gaomi factory in a long time. What are your impressions?

Bernd Kleffmann: Well, it's three-and-a-half years since my last visit, so quite a long time. It's great to meet up with colleagues again and see at first hand how the site has continued to develop even during the corona pandemic.

Sebastian Pleuler: It's a special visit for me too. I was lucky enough to work at the Gaomi site for two years, and then visited again for a couple of months. But this is my first return visit for four years and it's a real pleasure to see so many friends again – and practice my Chinese on them (laughs)! When I look at the factory, I see a certain degree of continuity, as well as a huge amount of progress. We have optimised everything – from our infrastructure to the machines that we now manufacture here.

Why is a production facility in China so attractive to CLAAS?

Dr Xi Chen: China has a population of 1.4 billion, making it the world's largest market for agricultural products. At the same time, agriculture in China is undergoing mechanisation and automation on an unprecedented scale, which is driving demand for powerful, efficient and reliable agricultural machines. China also has excellent industrial infrastructure. There are many very attractive suppliers and a highly qualified workforce. These factors enable us to manufacture a very wide range of products at our factory in Gaomi – from the H80, DOMINATOR 370 and DOMINATOR 260 combine harvesters to the EVION. We also have a very extensive sales and service network in China. That alone illustrates how important the factory is to CLAAS.

Pleuler: I could not agree more. But I think we need to turn the question round. Why, as a global business, should we not be active in China? Especially having built up such a capable workforce at the factory over the last ten years and optimised the production capacities.

Dr Chen, there was a specific reason for Mr Pleuler and Mr Kleffmann's visit to Gaomi, can you tell us more?

Chen: We have been preparing for the series production of the new EVION combine harvester here for a number of years. Mr Kleffmann and Mr Pleuler have been closely involved in this process and wanted to get an overview of what we have set up here. They have also taken the opportunity to visit customers and key suppliers.

The EVION was mainly developed during the corona pandemic. How did that work in practice, given China's strict lockdown measures?

Kleffmann: It certainly wasn't easy. From spring 2020 onwards, travelling to China became very difficult as restrictions constantly changed. So we had to find new ways of working together using programs like Skype or Teams and manufacturing and product design software like Catia and Delmia. But the fact that we were accustomed to working closely together before the pandemic meant that we were already on a sound footing when it came to keeping in touch virtually. In addition, a number of colleagues undertook several arduous trips to China involving hotel quarantines. And Dr Chen himself travelled to Harsewinkel and back to Gaomi three times – facing a three-week quarantine each time. We are so grateful for his dedication and that of the others who endured these hardships.

What's so special about the EVION combine harvester?

Kleffmann: The EVION is designed for small and medium-sized farms, often family farms whose owners still drive the combine harvester themselves. It is based on the same modular design principle as the LEXION and TRION. We can't wait to welcome the latest member to join our combine harvester family! It also explains the slogan of our marketing campaign "Family Matters".

Pleuler: Customers will be deploying the first 50 machines to bring in the harvest this summer. We are very excited to see how the EVION will be received – having worked on it for almost five years now. I was delighted when the first preseries machines were shipped to Germany at the start of the year. It marked a real milestone for what is a very special product for us: conceived in Germany, born in China. One of our logistics service providers fitted the machines with the equipment required to conform to German specifications in Bremerhaven. Then the combine harvesters underwent a final check in Harsewinkel, where a few last-minute improvements were made. Having spent several years working with customers to extensively validate the EVION, we are delighted to be able to hand the machine over to more farmers.

Mr Kleffmann, Mr Pleuler, what will you take personally from your meeting in Gaomi?

Pleuler: Well, several gifts: Chinese food, a scarf for my wife, lots of tea, toys for my children (laughs). But above all, the sense that we have a very good factory in Gaomi with several fantastic colleagues – in both personal and professional terms.

Kleffmann: I feel the same. I sensed just how strongly the people in the factory identify with CLAAS and how passionate they are about our products. That makes me very optimistic about our future projects.

Chen: I'm really pleased to hear that. I hope that we can deliver many more development projects together – and that we will increasingly see CLAAS innovations coming from China in future. But we can discuss that in more detail when I return to Harsewinkel next month (laughs).


Dr Xi Chen, 46, has been General Manager of the CLAAS factory in Gaomi since 2020.

Bernd Kleffmann, 53, is Senior Vice President Product Unit Combines Range C-F at CLAAS.

Sebastian Pleuler, 37, is Director Quality Management at CLAAS Business Unit Grain.