Daimler is planning on expanding at its Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama by up to 60,000 more vehicles per year with a goal of increasing production of its C-Class sedan and adding an SUV to the production line.
The plant was founded in 1995 and opened with production of the Mercedes-Benz M Class in 1997. It will now produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually.
The decision to expand the plant comes after the company recently announced a redesign of its C-Class sedan in June. Mercedes-Benz's new SUV will be the fifth vehicle produced at the plant.
"We're calling 2015 the 'Year of the SUV' for Mercedes and Tuscaloosa because we will roll out the all-new ML Coupe and have facelifts of the ML and GL," said Dieter Zetsche, Daimler chairman, at a gathering of local officials and community members on Sept. 5. "That also means more investment and yet another increase in production."
The decision to build the redesigned cars in the U.S. is largely because of the fact that sales in the U.S. are increasing and there are a number of costs involved with importing the cars. The decision is also viewed as a tribute to the American workforce.
"We are the first German manufacturer in the luxury segment to produce a sedan in the U.S.," said Markus Schafer, board member of Mercedes-Benz. "With the C-Class we are expanding our capacities in the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa -- we are proud of our team members dong such a good job."
Mercedes-Benz has invested over $4 billion in the Alabama plant, with $2.4 billion going toward the current expansion. The plant will now employ over 3,400 workers, according to a press release from Mercedez-Benz.
As well as expanding its operations in the U.S., the company is also expanding its operations in China in an effort to close the gap between it and BMW. Mercedes-Benz has been fighting back against rival BMW since 2005, when BMW overtook Mercedes-Benz as the highest- selling luxury car brand.
Through August, Mercedes-Benz sales in the U.S. rose to 205,894 vehicles, up 8.4 percent. This is behind BMW's sales of 211,005.
The decision to expand the plant comes at the same time as a United Automobile Workers campaign that continues to build on efforts to create a local UAW chapter. In fact, the plant in Alabama is the only Mercedes-Benz plant in the world that is not unionized.
"We haven't announced that we are going to do that but certainly that is an option," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel.