Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) celebrated the ten year production anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class. At the event, Alabama Governor Bob Riley, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of DaimlerChrysler AG and Head of the Mercedes Car Group, as well as Plant Manager Bill Taylor welcomed current and former team members as well as guests, including government officials, business leaders, and local dignitaries.
In his address to team members and guests, Governor Riley emphasized the economic importance of Alabama`s first automaker: "In 2006, the economic impact of MBUSI and its Tier-1 suppliers was well over $6.8 billion to Alabama`s economy. Mercedes-Benz changed the economic development model for Alabama. It improved the economy of the whole state and helped to prove that Alabama is the place to be when it comes to doing business."
"Right from the start, Alabama and Mercedes-Benz has been a win-win relationship. Since our decision to come here, we have invested more than $1 billion and twice expanded our production facilities. And that`s not without reason, since the plant produces top quality vehicles that are popular all over the world. Plus, the plant employs around 4,000 people and contributes strongly to society," Dr. Zetsche underlined.
"Ten years of production of the M-Class is a great milestone and major accomplishment for both our team and our partners around the world in building our products," said Bill Taylor. "This organization has come a long way - from never having built an automobile just ten years ago - to now building three products that are produced for 135 countries worldwide. Today`s event reminds us what this Mercedes-Benz team in Alabama can do."
"Edition10" limited edition M-Class model
To mark the tenth anniversary of the M-Class, Mercedes-Benz is presenting the limited edition model "Edition10". In addition to the regular model, the special edition is marked with "Edition 10" badges on its fenders. The anniversary edition also contains a long list of features and distinguishes itself through attractive exterieur design elements. Customers can order the vehicle beginning in fall 2007. The model comes with a broad range of special features already included, such as 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, taillights with a sporty, dark background, and special color highlights for the vehicle body. Striking features of the sporty interior include two-tone leather appointments throughout, sport instruments, and stainless steel pedals.
Home of Mercedes-Benz family of SUVs
The M-Class is the pioneer among premium SUVs, first rolling off the production line in 1997. Since then, two additional models have been added to the original and best-selling Mercedes-Benz SUV: The R-Class, a versatile and comfortable SUV tourer positioned between an offroader and a traditional station wagon, as well as the GL-Class, which is the first premium full-size SUV of Mercedes-Benz. More than 960,000 units of the three models have been delivered to customers since 1997, making Mercedes-Benz the best-selling premium brand in the SUV segment. MBUSI produced more SUVs last year - over 170,000 units - than ever before in its 10 Year-history.
Customers continue to provide positive feedback for the vehicles made in Tuscaloosa. Among the award recipients of J. D. Power`s Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study published in June were two vehicles from Tuscaloosa: the GL-Class (Gold medal) and the M-Class. Each year, the American market research organization J.D. Power surveys consumers who have purchased new vehicles to measure customer satisfaction in terms of the respective automotive concepts.
Cutting-edge diesel technology in the SUV segment
Almost half of the vehicles that rolled off the production line in Tuscaloosa last year were equipped with a V6 or V8 diesel engine manufactured at the German engine plant in Berlin-Marienfelde. In the M-Class, the worldwide share of diesel-powered vehicles rose in 2006 to the record level of over 50 percent for the first time.
The trend toward state-of-the-art diesel technology also continues to grow in the United States. In the first six months of 2007, diesel versions accounted for between 14 percent (GL-Class) and 20 percent (M-Class) of SUV sales in the U.S.
Starting in 2008, Mercedes-Benz will offer its entire SUV range with the exhaust treatment system BLUETEC, which makes diesel engines the cleanest in the world in all vehicle classes. What`s more, these engines meet even the most stringent emissions limits, ensuring that vehicles equipped with BLUETEC technology are approved for use in all 50 states. BLUETEC is a system developed by DaimlerChrysler that effectively reduces diesel vehicles` fuel consumption and emissions by up to 40 percent compared to conventional gasoline-powered automobiles.
The V6 and V8 gasoline engines and transmissions installed in vehicles at Tuscaloosa are manufactured at the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim plant and by AMG GmbH in Affalterbach, Germany. This contributes significantly to the utilization rate of engine production, which Mercedes-Benz continues to entirely operate in Germany.
Series production launched in 1997
The Tuscaloosa plant was commissioned on May 21, 1997, after a two-year construction period. It was Mercedes-Benz` first passenger vehicle plant outside of Germany. When DaimlerChrysler decided to construct the plant in 1993, it became the first automaker to establish an automotive manufacturing facility in Alabama. All in all, MBUSI has directly or indirectly, created more than 22,000 jobs. If the workforce of the largest suppliers in the area are added to this figure, then more than 41,000 people are currently employed in Alabama`s auto industry, either directly or indirectly.
After quickly reaching the original production capacity target of 65,000 vehicles per year, Mercedes-Benz invested about $80 million in the plant in 1998 and 1999, to ensure that capacity could be increased to approximately 80,000 units per year.
Plant expansion in 2005 and broader product range
By investing a further $600 million since 2001, Mercedes-Benz has prepared the plant for the production of the second-generation M-Class (since 2005), the R-Class (since 2005) and the GL-Class (since 2006). The expansion has led to a doubling of the workforce (4,000) and the production capacity (160,000). The expansion has been completed and was opened in May 2005.
Focus on optimum production and quality assurance processes
The Tuscaloosa plant now has two assembly lines, two paint shops, and a body shop. The assembly process is very flexible, and the principles and standards of the Mercedes-Benz Production System (MPS) have been comprehensively implemented. From a logistical standpoint, the site is ideally suited for just-in-sequence and just-in-time production. To this end, around 30 Tier I suppliers of production materials have located in the state of Alabama. This makes it possible for the plant to keep its inventory to a minimum.
To ensure that production proceeds smoothly, Mercedes-Benz has promoted intensive qualification and close intercultural interaction from the very start. Not only during production launches are team members from Tuscaloosa trained at German plants and the Mercedes-Benz Technology Center; but production experts are sent from Germany to Alabama as well as plant Tuscaloosa team members are also being called on to share experiences and train workforce in other international plants of Mercedes-Benz. At the same time, production experts from Germany are coming to Alabama to exchange know-how. Over the past decade, the German and American employees in Tuscaloosa have been steadily building a close working relationship within the production network as a matter of course.
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