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Mercedes M-Class gets new name, look at New York Auto Show debut

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – The vehicle that launched Alabama’s auto industry – the Mercedes-Benz M-Class – is getting a new name and a new look that will be unveiled at the New York International Auto Show.

To become known as the GLE, the Alabama-made sport utility vehicle family also is getting a new member: a plug-in hybrid model that’s also going to make a world premiere at the New York show. The event officially begins Saturday, but a press preview is being held Wednesday and Thursday.

“Often copied, rarely equaled – the M-Class established the segment of premium SUVs in 1997 and since then has been one of the most successful models in the world. With the launch of the GLE, the edition will surpass the 1.6 million mark,” said Ola Kaellenius, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The 2016 GLE will debut at the New York Auto Show.
The 2016 GLE will debut at the New York Auto Show.

The German automaker said it plans to display two high-performance SUV models at the New York Auto Show — Mercedes-AMG GLE63 4MATIC and the GLE63 S 4MATIC, which features plug-in hybrid technology.

Mercedes says the M-Class successor has been thoroughly revised as the GLE, its best-seller in the SUV segment. The automaker says the GLE’s features include more appealing front and tail ends and extensive measures that make possible new benchmarks with regard to emissions and the drive system.

“State-of-the-art and efficient drive technology, combined with superior ride quality and the versatility and robustness typical for SUVs – the new GLE has all the ingredients to continue the success story of our best-seller,” Kaellenius added.

Kaellenius is a former head of the automaker’s Alabama operation.

ACCELERATING IN ALABAMA

Mercedes produced its first M-Class at its new $350 million Alabama factory in February 1997. Today, the total investment in the facility, after repeated rounds of expansion is $4 billion. Originally slated to produce about 65,000 M-Class SUVs annually, the Alabama plant’s annual output will soon reach 300,000, spread among four models.

Mercedes-Benz's Alabama factory has been an exporting powerhouse since it began production in 1997.
Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama factory has been an exporting powerhouse since it began production in 1997.

In 2014, Mercedes launched mass production of its C-Class sedan at the Tuscaloosa County facility, and it will begin production of a new model, the GLE Coupé, there in coming months after its premier at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (The GLE Coupé will be featured in “Jurassic World” film, a sequel to the famous “Jurassic Park,” which showcased the first-generation M-Class.)

On Saturday, a group of 14 bloggers will stop by the Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center at the Alabama manufacturing complex to pick up a couple of GLEs and get a spin on the site’s off-road course before they caravan to next week’s New York Auto Show for the world premier of the 2016 GLE.

You can follow the road trip under hashtag #mbrt15. The blog contributions are available at http://www.mb4.me/mbrt15.

NEW SONATA

Last year’s New York Auto Show featured the debut of another Alabama-made vehicle – the redesigned 2015 Hyundai Sonata. The Sonata, a consistent top-seller for Hyundai in the U.S., has been produced in Montgomery since the Alabama plant opened in 2005.

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