The former Daimler-Benz AG (now 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.
Training is a vital component of MBUSI’s corporate strategy. At the beginning, Team Members underwent extensive training at plants in Germany, some living and working there for more than 6 months, as well as on the line in Tuscaloosa. Some 70 German trainers moved to Alabama prior to the 1997 launch of the M-Class to assist with the training process of the production Team Members. Extensive training continues even today in the current operation.
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 percent to 80,000.
Besides body, paint, and assembly shops, also located on the Tuscaloosa site are a comprehensive training facility, a visitor center, a childcare, athletic center and a health and wellness center. The Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center, which houses entertaining and informational exhibits detailing the history of Mercedes-Benz—including its products, technology, and commitment to safety—is open to the public. Since opening in mid 1997, over 230,000 people have toured the Visitor Center and plant.
The original M-Class won more than 60 awards including the 1998 North American Truck of the Year, 1998 Motor Trend Truck of the Year, and Consumers Digest “Best Buy”.
It has been 20 years since Daimler-Benz AG (now Daimler AG) surprised the world and selected Alabama as the home for its first full passenger vehicle plant outside of Germany and in North America.
As a result of the worldwide success of the M-Class (now renamed the GLE), Daimler AG has continually invested, expanded, and more than tripled production at MBUSI. We now build the GLE, GLS, GLE Coupe, and the Mercedes-Maybach GLS for the world market.
In 2015 annual production was 303,000 vehicles. 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.
As of today, Daimler AG has invested over $4.5 billion and continues to invest in MBUSI in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. MBUSI is responsible for more than 22,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region, and has an annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion. MBUSI is also the state’s largest exporter, with more than $1 billion in exports each year to over 130 countries around the world.