The facility will be responsible for what Mercedes calls "the next SUV generations," which makes it sound like the plant will continue to assemble the GLE-Class and GL-Class SUVs, as well as the C-Class sedan. The next-gen SUVs built in Alabama will include hybrid variants, Mercedes said.
Upgrades to the sprawling 5-million-square-foot facility include a new 1.3-million-square-foot body shop that will implement modular construction techniques. As for the current body shop, it will be expanded by nearly 140,000 square feet and will receive a larger "marriage" station, for pairing bodies and powertrains. Finally, the entire facility will receive a major IT upgrade.
"In the next years we invest $1.3 billion in the expansion of our SUV production and turn the Mercedes-Benz plant Tuscaloosa into a high-tech location," Mercedes' Markus Schäfer said in the attached release. "In this way we can produce the next SUV generations even more flexibly, efficiently and in proven top quality."
If you're interested in the nitty gritty particulars of the announcement, you can read all about them in the official press release.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA / Stuttgart, Germany, Sep 18, 2015
MBUSI (Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc.) to produce future SUV generations including hybrid versions
SUV production to be expanded – 300 new jobs
New Body Shop, major enhancements to SUV Assembly Shop and upgraded logistics and IT systems
Implementation of state-of-the-art technologies and end-to-end digitization of production processes in line with the smart factory approach
Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management: "In the next years we invest $1.3 billion in the expansion of our SUV production and turn the Mercedes-Benz plant Tuscaloosa into a high-tech location. In this way we can produce the next SUV generations even more flexibly, efficiently and in proven top quality."
Jason Hoff, President and CEO of MBUSI: "With this expansion and modernization of our plant, we will create 300 new jobs and continue the success story of Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa."
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA / Stuttgart, Germany – Mercedes-Benz expands the SUV production in the US and will create 300 new jobs. "In the next years we invest $1.3 billion into the expansion of our SUV production and turn the Mercedes-Benz plant Tuscaloosa into a high-tech location," says Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management. "In this way we can produce the next SUV generations even more flexibly, efficiently and in proven top quality."
The Mercedes-Benz plant Tuscaloosa will also assemble the next SUV generations including the hybrid versions. The plant expansion in this context includes a new Body Shop, major enhancements to the SUV Assembly Shop as well as upgraded logistics and IT systems. State-of-the-art technologies and an end-to-end digitization of production processes enable a highly flexible production. As part of the global production network, Tuscaloosa is connected to all Mercedes-Benz Cars locations around the world, allowing a location-independent access to data and process management. Every single installation and every robot, for example, can be controlled and updated to new software programmes. Big Data applications will be used for intelligent analyses and for an improvement of the production processes.
"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 MBUSI. "Our entire team is proud to reinforce the State of Alabama's growing reputation as a leader in high-quality automotive manufacturing."
The new 1.3-million square foot (125,000 square meters) Body Shop will use the latest lightweight technologies with innovative joining processes and employ a modular approach to manufacturing. MBUSI's current SUV Assembly Shop will be expanded by 139,930 square feet (13,000 square meters) and receive a larger, more flexible "marriage" station, where the body is merged with the powertrain, allowing for production of a wider range of vehicles. The plant will also upgrade its Logistics IT system to create a seamless integration of the supply base into the Mercedes-Benz plant operations.
About the Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa plant
The Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa plant (Mercedes-Benz U.S. International - MBUSI) was the first major automaker to open a passenger car facility in Alabama. To date, Mercedes-Benz has made a $4.5 billion capital investment in the Tuscaloosa operations. The plant was founded in 1995 and started production of the GLE (Formerly M-Class) in 1997, which is now being built in the 3rd generation. The plant added the R-Class in 2005, the GL in 2006, and the new C-Class sedan for the North American market in 2014. In August 2015, production of R-Class vehicles was moved to the U.S. contract manufacturer AM-General in Mishawaka, Indiana to free production capacities to be used for the SUV series. The latest expansion is geared towards the next SUV generations including the hybrid versions.
MBUSI produced more than 232,000 vehicles in 2014 and is on track to exceed 300,000 vehicles in 2015. To date, more than 2.2 million vehicles have rolled off the plant's line for customers around the world.
About Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations
Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations is responsible for passenger car production at 26 locations around the world as part of a flexible and efficient production network involving more than 70,000 employees. This includes the central functions of planning, logistics and quality. Mercedes-Benz Cars produced more than 1,754,000 Mercedes-Benz and smart passenger cars last year, marking the fourth record in a row.
The network is based on the product architectures of front-wheel drive (compact cars) and rear-wheel drive (for example the S-Class, E-Class, and C-Class) as well as the SUV and sports car architectures. In addition, there is a powertrain production network (engines, transmissions, axles and components). Each of these production networks is grouped around a lead plant that serves as a center of competence for the ramp-up of new products, technology and quality assurance.
The focus of day-to-day work is on the continuous improvement and refinement of state-of-the-art production methods, which allow future high-tech vehicles to be produced in a way that is efficient, flexible and environmentally friendly, according to the typical Mercedes-Benz quality standards. All of this revolves around the employees and their expertise, whose work is systematically supported by ergonomic workplace design and intelligent automation. In addition to its own production plants, Mercedes-Benz is increasingly leveraging partnerships and utilizing capacities at contract manufacturers as part of its growth strategy.