The Mercedes-Benz U.S. International manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa County has some serious horsepower. The automaker’s first full-scale passenger car assembly plant outside of Germany continues to see rising output as new models are added to the production line-up.
In 2014, the Mercedes Alabama operation produced 232,000 vehicles, an annual record for the multibillion dollar facility. The production tally continues to rise and set records as the facility works to meet global demand for the company’s Alabama-made model series.
The Tuscaloosa County assembly plant — which launched Alabama’s auto industry when the first M-Class SUV rolled off the line in 1997 — is one of the company’s most advanced. It continues to grow in sophistication, thanks to a $1.3 billion expansion announced in 2015, that includes a new body shop, enhancements to the assembly shop and upgrades in the plant’s technology base. The expansion is to prepare the facility for production of next generation SUVs, including hybrids.
With these repeated expansions, the Alabama workforce continues to grow. Mercedes’s initial workforce was targeted at 1,500. Today, the workforce numbers are over 3,500, with new jobs, including engineering positions, added with each expansion. Thousands more are employed at more than 40 Alabama-based suppliers that serve the factory.
Mercedes has produced more than 2 million vehicles at the Tuscaloosa County facility since that first M-Class appeared back in 1997. Models now produced in Alabama are the GLE-Class (the new name for the M-Class), the GLS-Class full-size SUV, the C-Class sedan, and the GLE Coupe. In 2017, Mercedes announced plans to invest another $1 billion at the plant in making SUVs for the company’s EQ electric brand. The project will entail building a new one million square foot battery plant near the vehicle factory and the addition of 600 new employees. EQ SUVs are expected to start rolling off assembly lines by the beginning of 2020.