Daimler AG announced in April 1993 that it would build its first passenger vehicle manufacturing facility in the United States. This decision emphasized the company’s globalization strategy and desire to move closer to its customers and markets. In September of 1993, after an extensive, six month site selection process, the company chose Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, as the location for its $300 million plant. Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) was formed to fulfill the goal of producing the Mercedes-Benz M-Class Sport Utility Vehicle for the worldwide market.
Construction of the plant was completed in July 1996. Production began in January 1997, and the first M-Class vehicles went on sale in the U.S. in September of that year.
MBUSI created a new corporate culture, based on teamwork and open communication. The combination of German & American team members, with experience from U.S. and Japanese automakers, as well as from Mercedes-Benz, made the “melting pot” in terms of its practices, procedures and corporate culture.
In 1993, original projections were for 65,000 M-Class vehicles to be built at the Tuscaloosa plant each year. Because of overwhelming demand, MBUSI invested an additional $80 million in 1998 and 1999 to expand the plant and increase annual production by 20% to 80,000. During the first eight years of production, some 350 vehicles a day came off the line, in two shifts.
As a result of the worldwide success of the M-Class (now called the GLE), Daimler AG has continually invested, expanded, and more than tripled production at MBUSI. We build the GLE, GLS, and the GLE Coupe for USA and the world.
In 2016 annual production was over 300,000 units. Roughly two-thirds of the components used in MBUSI-built vehicles come from North American suppliers, and about 30 first- and second-tier suppliers are now located in Alabama. We distribute to 135 markets worldwide with 60% for export.
Besides body, paint and assembly shops, also located on the Tuscaloosa site are a comprehensive training facility, a visitor center, a childcare and a health and wellness center. The Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center, which houses entertaining exhibits detailing the history of Mercedes-Benz—including its products, technology, and commitment to safety—is open to the public.