Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche, who participated in the creation of the Alabama plant project as a fast-rising executive in 1993, said in a statement released from Stuttgart that the U.S. operation will take over about one-fifth of the model’s global production.
The Tuscaloosa plant currently is the source of Mercedes-Benz crossovers and SUVs, the M-class, R-class and GL-class.
While the plant expanded several times to keep up with a seemingly insatiable world appetite for the large vehicles over the past decade, the crashing U.S. SUV market has left the plant underused for two years.
Rainer Schmuckle, COO for Mercedes-Benz Cars, said the move would help Mercedes in the “tough competition in the C-class segment.”
“This applies not only to our direct production costs, but also to the import duty and logistics advantages,” he said in the statement.
The likely addition of the C-class has been rumored among Mercedes’ suppliers since last year as the Alabama plant struggled with reduced volumes and staff reductions.
Zetsche’s statement said that moving C-class volume to the United States will require some shifting of products in Germany to protect jobs there. European C-class production from the Mercedes Sindelfingen plant will be consolidated at the company’s plant in Bremen. Bremen will hand off assembly of the SL roadster to Sindelfingen.
According to the statement, Sindelfingen will become “a worldwide competence center for the production of premium and luxury automobiles, increasingly with alternative powertrain systems.”