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Mercedes to invest $1.3 billion in Alabama plant for next-gen SUVs

Mercedes-Benz plans to invest nearly $1.3 billion in a major expansion at its Alabama assembly plant, creating 300 jobs and preparing the factory to launch production of its next-generation sport utility vehicles, including hybrids.

The new investment comes at a time of dramatic growth for Mercedes’ manufacturing hub in Tuscaloosa County. Output at the 3.7 million-square-foot plant is targeted at 300,000 vehicles this year, an increase of 60 percent from the 2013 production level. At the same time, Mercedes has introduced new models to its Alabama production line-up, including the GLE Coupé this year.

Governor Robert Bentley attended a meeting this afternoon of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, where Mercedes officials laid out their plans. “It’s great to be in Tuscaloosa to announce that Mercedes will invest another $1.3 billion and create 300 new jobs in Alabama,” Governor Bentley tweeted.

MBUSI Team Members pose with MBUSI’s “Job 1” GLE Coupe
Mercedes workers pose with the “Job 1” GLE Coupe earlier this year.

The plant expansion includes a new 1.3 million-square-foot body shop and major enhancements to the SUV Assembly Shop, which will be expanded by 140,000 square feet. The plant’s logistics and IT systems will be upgraded. These state-of-the-art technologies and an end-to-end digitization of production processes are designed to enable highly flexible production.

“The significant new investment Mercedes is making to expand its Tuscaloosa County manufacturing facility shows the company’s strong commitment to advancing automotive technology,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Over the past 20 years, Alabama has developed a productive partnership with Mercedes, and the company’s Alabama workforce has proven its capabilities through repeated expansions and model launches.

“This is a ‘Made-in-Alabama’ success story with global connections,” Secretary Canfield added.

ROUNDS OF EXPANSIONS

Mercedes, which produced its first Alabama-made vehicle in 1997, has invested a total of more than $4 billion in its sprawling Tuscaloosa County campus, after repeated expansions. The plant’s workforce now numbers around 3,500. A portion of the new jobs will be focused on engineering.

Besides the new GLE Coupé, the models made there are the C-Class sedan, the flagship M-Class (renamed the GLE-Class) sport utility, and the GL-Class (renamed the GLS-Class) full-size SUV. In 2014, the Mercedes plant produced 232,000 vehicles, pushing its cumulative production total past 2 million.

“With this expansion and modernization of our plant, we will create 300 new jobs and continue the success story of Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa,” said Jason Hoff, president and CEO of the automaker’s Alabama operation. “Our entire team is proud to reinforce the State of Alabama’s growing reputation as a leader in high-quality automotive manufacturing.”

Mercedes suppliers have also been expanding or establishing new operations in Alabama. In August, parts maker SMP announced plans for a $150 million plant in Tuscaloosa County that will eventually create 650 jobs. Also last month, Kamtek announced a $530 million expansion of its Birmingham manufacturing facility that will add 350 jobs.

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