Mercedes-Benz to add a fifth model at U.S. plant, possibly the MLC

Article by Christian Andrei, on July 22, 2011

Sources inside Daimler AG said that a fifth model -- a coupe-styled variant of the Mercedes-Benz M class SUV – will be produced at its U.S. auto assembly plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A report from Automotive News Europe says that production could begin as early as 2015.

The new M-class body style, which is likely to be named MLC, will go up against the BMW X6 that’s produced in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 2010, BMW sold 46,404 units of the X6 worldwide.

It also sold 102,178 units of its sibling model, the X5. The internal development code for the new M-class variant is C166. Mercedes produces the M-, R- and GL-Class at the Tuscaloosa factory and starting in 2014, the C-class sedan will start production for North American customers.

Last Thursday, Daimler said it will spend about $2 billion to upgrade and expand operations at Tuscaloosa. This amount will be used for the plant to start production of the C class, as well as to retool for new generations of the R class and G class.

Mercedes is currently competing with BMW to be named as the No. 1 luxury brand in the U.S., after the reign of Toyota's Lexus has been cut. From the start of the year until June in the U.S., BMW has sold 113,705 of its namesake vehicles.

Mercedes, excluding its Sprinter commercial vans, sold 110,926 units. Lexus was hurt by the disaster in Japan and sold only 88,010 cars. Mercedes’ production at the Tuscaloosa plant is near to its 160,000-unit annual capacity. This plant currently has about 2,800 workers.

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