The first all-new Mercedes-Benz GLE, which is based on a completely new SUV platform, left the production lines in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, last week as the company also broke ground on a new battery plant near the site of the German automaker’s assembly plant in the southern U.S.
“The widely export oriented Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa is a high-tech production facility with a successful history and an exciting future in terms of our brand in the United States,” said Markus Schaefer, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain, who was on hand for the ceremony attended.
“We aim to play a pioneering role in the development of e-mobility and are well prepared to accomplish this mission,” he said.
The company announced a year it planned invest $1 billion in the Tuscaloosa-based plant mostly for the production of electric SUVs and a battery plant. In addition to the Alabama facility, Mercedes is building six sites for production of EQ models and eight factories for battery production, Schaefer said.
(The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE is more luxurious — and more capable. Click Here for the story.)
At the same time, the electric initiative of Mercedes-Benz Cars in the U.S. is well on track. The battery factory being plant near the production plant in Tuscaloosa will provide batteries for future electric SUV under the product and technology brand EQ, he noted.
The new production site for batteries – along with the new Consolidation Center – is located seven miles from the Mercedes-Benz Cars vehicle production site in Tuscaloosa. The Consolidation Center, also announced as part of the 2017 investment announcement, will consist of three major areas, including the body parts preparation area, the assembly parts preparation area and the empties storage. It is expected to be operational in 2019.
The worldwide network of battery factories allows Mercedes-Benz to react flexibly and efficiently to market demands and requirements. The different sites supply local vehicle production and are ready to export batteries, if required, Schaefer said.
Mercedes-Benz Cars will offer at least one electrified vehicle in each model series by 2022 totaling up to more than 130 models. Mercedes-Benz is about to start the production of electric passenger cars as part of its worldwide electric initiative. This includes the production of an all-electric SUV in the U.S.
Mercedes-Benz noted it has invested more than $6 billion in the Tuscaloosa complex since 1995.
The additional $1 billion investment represents something of a gamble for the German automaker since the trade war between the U.S. and China, the ultimate destination a majority of the vehicles built in Tuscaloosa, show no sign of abating anytime soon. In addition, consumer demand for electric vehicles in the U.S. is growing slowly.
(Click Here for more about the models Mercedes brought to the Paris Motor Show.)
Tuscaloosa has served as the traditional production site for SUVs since 1997. This factory supplies the current GLE, GLE Coupe and GLS models to customers worldwide. These models are made exclusively in Alabama and two thirds of them are exported to almost every country in the world. There with MBUSI is the second-largest automotive exporter in the U.S.
The GLE is the bestselling SUV in the history of Mercedes-Benz. Worldwide.
More than 5 million customers have opted for an SUV made by Mercedes-Benz. A new record was set by the SUVs in the first eight months of this year. Worldwide, more than 540,000 units were delivered, an increase of 5.4%. With the start of production of the new Mercedes-Benz GLE the plant will enhance its proven production portfolio.
The new GLE comes with more capability off the road and the new E-Active Control chassis offers a new dimension in a smooth ride.
“The successful story of the Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa plant began with the start of production of the M-Class 21 years ago,” said Jason Hoff, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International.
(To see more about the EQC taking Mercedes all-electric, Click Here.)
The new battery facility near the Tuscaloosa plant is part of a global battery production network of in total eight factories in Germany, China, Bangkok Thailand and Alabama.