Daimler to invest $2 billion in Alabama plant to build the new M-, C- and G-Class

Article by Christian Andrei, on July 21, 2011

Daimler AG has approved the expenses of over $2 billion to upgrade and expand operations at its U.S. auto assembly plant situated near Tuscaloosa, Ala. The funds will be used to start producing the Mercedes-Benz C class car and to retool the plant to build new generations of two models that are currently being produced in this plant: the Mercedes-Benz R-class crossover and G-class SUV. With the end of Lexus’ 11-year reign, Mercedes and BMW are battling it out to get the title of top-selling luxury brand in the U.S.

Daimler has yet to specify the time periods that the investment will cover or if has more projects to fund. In late 2009, Daimler said that this plant will be where C-class production will start in 2014. Daimler revealed the investment amount after a recent Job 1 plant celebration that launched the production of the new-generation Mercedes M class in the plant.

When the Tuscaloosa plant opened in February 1997, it had received a $350 million manufacturing investment. It aimed to put Mercedes-Benz retailers into a booming SUV market with the M class.

Back then, the plant was considered quite risky. It marked the first time that Mercedes operated a plant outside of Germany. Before this, Mercedes had never trained an inexperienced work force and never sold an SUV in the U.S. It’s also the first time that Mercedes worked with U.S. automotive managers.

The new Mercedes-Benz M-Class is on its third generation, and once again it has set new standards in innovative technology among SUVs. The latest M-Class showcases outstanding energy efficiency, peerless passive safety, supreme ride comfort and exceptional driving dynamics in a totally restyled interior noted for its superb ergonomics.

The impressively low fuel consumption and CO2 emission are evident in the fact that, on average, the new M-Class range uses up 25 percent less petrol than the previous generation. It marks the first time Mercedes-Benz has successfully reduced fuel consumption to that degree in an SUV model update. This achievement is due to its cutting-edge engine line-up, a 0.32 Cd unprecedented in SUVs, tighter BlueEFFICIENCY measure integration and the latest development tools, including “energy-transparent vehicle."

For instance, the ML 250 BlueTEC 4MATIC model boasts of being 28 percent more efficient than its preceding version, as it uses only 6.0 L per 100 km on the NEDC driving cycle (158 g CO2/km) while travelling up to 1500 kilometres on just one full tank.

Part of the Mercedes-Benz brand philosophy is the holistic Real Life Safety concept, based on data from real accident situations. The new Mercedes-Benz M-Class embodies this safety concept in staying true to the overall brand philosophy. The passenger cell, which is engineered for strength, works with the front and rear deformation zones to provide an extremely solid base for passenger protection systems. Active and driver-fitness safeties are enhanced further by systems adapted from the S-Class and E-Class

Exceptional comfort and dynamically responsive on-road and off-road handling are standout traits of all new M-Class models, thanks in part to the steel suspension with selective damping. Apart from this, the vehicles feature additional chassis improvements and enhanced dynamic handling control systems engineered to provide an outstandingly smooth driving experience.

Among these features are: (1) AIRMATIC air suspension with Adaptive Damping System (ADS); (2) ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM for active roll stabilisation; and the (3) ON&OFFROAD package consisting of six driving modes. An all-encompassing package for sound and vibration damping has also been incorporated into the M-Class, making it unmatched among SUVs in this respect.

Interior details: An upgrade to First Class

The much-desired third generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class continues the brand’s acclaimed off-road heritage while also offering luxurious passenger comfort levels fit for a premium saloon. Posh materials such as ground aluminium and top-quality woods are used. The interior’s extraordinarily detailed switches, elegant trimmings, exquisite finishes and dynamically proportioned lines combine for an elegantly refined atmosphere that promotes exceptional comfort for anyone driving or riding this premium SUV.

The overriding and standout interior design concept is a blend of the genuine SUV spirit and the prestige of a supremely comfortable top-end Mercedes-Benz saloon. The overall shape creates a voluminous atmosphere of power appropriate for an SUV. At the same time, the gradual slope of the dashboard seems to expand the internal space, emphasising the vehicle’s great aptitude for long drives.

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