The history of premium SUVs from Mercedes-Benz is also the history of the plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Since 1995 Daimler has invested more than six billion dollars in this location in the southern USA, and since 1997 it has produced more than two million SUVs of which two thirds went for export. Tuscaloosa is the only production location for the new GLS. The GLE and the GLE Coupé are also produced here, as is the C-Class for the North American market. One billion euros is currently being invested in the Tuscaloosa location to prepare the plant for the production of future electric SUVs, including the construction of a battery factory close to the plant.
At present, Mercedes-Benz offers seven models in the SUV segment (GLA, GLC, GLC Coupé, GLE, GLE Coupé, GLS, G-Class). The SUVs are a major structural pillar in the Mercedes-Benz product portfolio, and greatly contribute to the growth of the brand. To date, more than six million customers around the world have opted for a Mercedes-Benz SUV.
In the last five years alone, global sales of the SUVs from Mercedes‑Benz more than doubled. Nowadays, the SUV segment accounts for more than one third of all Mercedes-Benz sales. In 2018, the SUVs were the strongest segment for Mercedes-Benz with more than 820,000 units sold.
Daimler's history in the USA goes back to the year 1888, when the first distributorship in the United States was founded, and since 1981 it has also included the heavy trucks of the American icon Freightliner. However, the major strategic decision to produce passenger cars in the USA was closely allied to the introduction of the large SUVs, for which the American market is by far the most important worldwide. The Tuscaloosa plant and the M-Class were therefore two parts of one and the same decision announced in April 1993: the history of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. – MBUSI for short – had begun.
The plant was completed in July 1996, and production of the first M-Class commenced in the following year. Daimler brought its corporate culture to the USA with thorough training and education of the employees. The originally planned production output of 65,000 units quickly became more. In recent years over 300,000 vehicles have rolled off the production lines in Tuscaloosa. More than three million vehicles have left the plant since 1997. Around two thirds of the installed parts and components come from North American suppliers. Some two thirds of the SUVs produced in Alabama are exported from the USA. This makes MBUSI the second-largest automobile exporter in the USA.
One billion dollars for electromobility
One billion US dollars is the investment with which Tuscaloosa is being prepared for a new chapter in the history of Daimler: the expansion of electromobility at Mercedes-Benz. Most of this sum is going into the construction of an American location within the Mercedes-Benz Cars battery production network. In Bibb County, eleven kilometres from the Mercedes-Benz car plant, the new plant is being built that will produce the batteries for future electric SUVs of the EQ product and technology brand. Directly adjacent to this is a logistics centre to supply the car production plant with the necessary parts. Both will be opened next year.
This means that a further 600 or so new jobs are expected to be created in Alabama, in addition to the current 3700 employees of the passenger car plant. All in all, the corporate group employs around 26,000 people at 23 US locations, providing around 150,000 jobs counting indirect employment.