Friday, July 13, 2007

Zetsche: Alabama plant will play big role in Daimler, Chrysler cooperation

April Wortham
Automotive News
July 12, 2007 - 12:01 am

VANCE, Ala. -- Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama plant will be a “major building block” in the new Daimler organization as it emerges from its sale of Chrysler, DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche said here Wednesday.

Speaking at an event commemorating the 10th production anniversary at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., Zetsche cited Mercedes' and Chrysler's plan to continue sharing future electrical architectures, SUV chassis components and other technology.

“SUVs are a big share of that, therefore MBUSI is very much involved in this future cooperation,” Zetsche said.

The Alabama plant is the exclusive producer of Mercedes’ family of SUVs for the world market, the M, R and GL classes. Production of the first M Class began in February 1997 with an expected target of 65,000 vehicles per year.

A $600 million expansion completed in 2005 doubled the plant’s size and workforce, making room for production of the R Class and GL Class, which went on sale in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

“Right from the start, Alabama and Mercedes-Benz has been a win-win relationship,” Zetsche said. “We have invested more than $1 billion here and expanded our facilities not once but twice. And that’s not without reason, since the plant produces top quality vehicles that are popular all over the world.”

More than 960,000 units of the three models have been delivered to customers since 1997, making Mercedes the best-selling premium brand in the SUV segment. The Alabama plant produced more than 170,000 SUVs last year, the most in its 10-year history.

“This organization has come a long way, from never having built an automobile just 10 years ago to now building three products that are produced for 135 countries worldwide,” said MBUSI President Bill Taylor. “Today’s event reminds us what this Mercedes-Benz team in Alabama can do.”

To mark the anniversary, Mercedes introduced a special version of the M Class called Edition 10.

The model, which will go on sale this fall, will carry a special badge on its fender and feature 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, sportier headlights and special body paint colors.

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