Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) broke ground today for a $600-million expansion at its Tuscaloosa, Alabama, M-Class sport utility plant. The company plans to double production for the next generation M-Class, which is currently the top selling Mercedes-Benz vehicle in the United States. The groundbreaking ceremony, which took place before a gathering of some 350 government and community leaders, as well as national and local media, included speeches by Helmut Petri, head of worldwide production for Mercedes- Benz; Alabama Governor Don Siegelman; and Bill Taylor, MBUSI president and CEO.
"Seven years ago, we made the decision to come to Alabama -- and it was the right decision," said Petri. "Now, with this $600-million expansion, we've made that decision for a second time.
"This expansion will make Tuscaloosa the largest plant for Mercedes-Benz outside of Germany, and that makes Alabama an even more important part of the DaimlerChrysler family," Petri added. "The people of Alabama have been with us every step of the way...as our partners and as our friends."
"Today, we break ground for tomorrow, planting the seed of dreams from which a new plant will grow. Together, Alabama and Mercedes-Benz have set the pace as a leader in automotive manufacturing in this region, in our nation and in the world. Together we are taking our partnership and friendship to a new level, meeting the world's demands," said Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. "It is with great pride and conviction that I pledge to continue to nurture and grow this dream that has forever linked our destinies."
The theme for today's groundbreaking was "From the seed of dreams...a plant grows," referring back to the 1994 groundbreaking for the current plant when the company said it had dreams that Tuscaloosa would become a successful manufacturing operation and, on that day, it was "planting the seed" for the future. Today, from those seeds, a plant grows.
The expansion will more than double the size of the existing 1.2-million-square foot facility, and will include an enlarged body shop and additional paint and assembly shops. Production capacity is expected to increase from 80,000 units a year to roughly 160,000. Approximately 2,000 new jobs will be added to the 1,900 team members already employed at MBUSI. Construction on the expansion will begin the middle of next year, with completion expected by the end of 2003. Clearing of the site will begin immediately.
"With this expansion, we are building upon what we've already started," said Taylor. "An organization that fosters individual growth and opportunity, open communication and teamwork, and a culture which believes your success should be shared with your community and those less fortunate."
School children from Vance Elementary School and Brookwood High School, along with children of MBUSI team members, also participated in the ceremony, providing musical entertainment and greeting visitors as they arrived at the site. Others shared testimonials of how their lives were impacted by
Mercedes' presence in Alabama (through co-op programs, summer internships, or though German-American friendships that have developed).
In addition, guests received their own keepsake construction hat imprinted with the Mercedes logo and the groundbreaking theme, and were invited to have their picture taken as they helped "move the earth" for the expansion. Following the groundbreaking, a reception was held at MBUSI's Visitor Center for everyone who attended the ceremony.
The award-winning M-Class has been a tremendous success worldwide, with demand far exceeding original expectations. It has become the top selling Mercedes-Benz vehicle in the U.S. In October, M-Class retail sales in the U.S. were 6,046 units, representing a 43.5 percent sales increase over last October's sales record. This is not only the all-time best month ever for the M-Class, but it is also the all-time monthly sales record in the U.S. for any single Mercedes-Benz vehicle class.
"We said from the beginning, that our success will also be success for the people of Alabama," said Bill Taylor. "We've done it together in the past, and we'll do it together again."
Some 80,000 vehicles will be produced this year at the Tuscaloosa factory, with an additional 25,000 to be produced at a factory in Graz, Austria, to meet European demand. The M-Class is sold in 135 countries.
With this expansion, DaimlerChrysler, MBUSI's parent company, could become the fifth largest employer in Alabama, with more than 7,000 employees between its Chrysler electronics plant in Huntsville, Alabama, and the Tuscaloosa Mercedes-Benz factory. The total capital investment made by DaimlerChrysler since 1994 in Alabama could be more than $1.3 billion, once the expansion is complete.
DaimlerChrysler AG is one of the world's leading automotive, transportation and services companies, selling products in more than 200 countries with manufacturing facilities in 34 countries. The company had revenues in 1999 totaling $151 billion.
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