Exactly 10 years ago, DaimlerChrysler announced its decision to build the first Mercedes-Benz passenger car factory outside Germany, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. At a special anniversary event using the theme “We’re still making history,” that announcement is being celebrated today at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) in Tuscaloosa, where the plant has been producing the Mercedes-Benz M-Class since 1997.
“In Tuscaloosa we have impressively shown that we can produce a new production series with a new workforce in a new factory, and we have also demonstrated that it is possible to have vehicles successfully ‘Made by Mercedes’ outside of Germany,” says Professor Jürgen Hubbert, DaimlerChrysler Board of Management member responsible for the Mercedes Car Group. “With the M-Class, we broke new ground for the Mercedes-Benz brand and successfully established a premium-class vehicle in the sport utility vehicle segment. The M-Class made a substantial contribution to the sales success of the Mercedes-Benz brand during the first product offensive.”
$600 Million Being Invested in Plant Expansion
At the moment, MBUSI is investing about $600 million in the expansion of the plant as it prepares to produce the Grand Sports Tourer (GST) and the successor model to the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. Ten years after the decision in favor of the Tuscaloosa production site, the company is doubling its workforce to approximately 4,000 employees and its yearly production capacity to 160,000 vehicles.
“The plant expansion and the addition of another production series give the Tuscaloosa site a more prominent place within the global Mercedes-Benz production network,” Hubbert said. “The key reasons for MBUSI’s success are the excellent partnership between the state of Alabama and our company and, of course, our employees’ dedication and team spirit.”
Since its market launch, more than 500,000 Mercedes-Benz M-Class vehicles have been sold in 135 countries around the world. Demand for the M-Class surpassed all expectations from its start, and the plant’s annual production capacity of approximately 65,000 vehicles already proved to be insufficient during the first year.
In addition to an initial investment of about $300 million, DaimlerChrysler spent about $80 million in 1998 and 1999 to expand the plant’s capacity to approximately 80,000 vehicles a year. From 1999 to 2002, the M-Class was also produced at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. About 25,000 M-Class vehicles have rolled off the assembly line in Graz each year for the European market.