The exterior of the highly anticipated 600,000-square-foot Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. (MBUSI) battery plant in Bibb County has been completed. That sets the stage for equipment installation needed to build electric batteries for a new lineup of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. Two new warehouses are also now in full operation at the Bibb County site.
MBUSI broke ground on the new battery plant in 2018 as part of a $1 billion investment in Bibb and Tuscaloosa counties to start production of electric vehicles and expand its Alabama operation’s logistics activities. Production is set to begin in 2022, with about 600 jobs expected.
A global splash
Mercedes-Benz is making a global splash into the all-electric car market with its plan to launch a series of new Mercedes-Benz-EQ vehicles in 2022, says Michael Goebel, president and CEO of MBUSI. Alabama will build the Mercedes-Benz EQS and EQE SUV variants on the same line with its SUVs with conventional and plug-in hybrid drives.
“By 2022 Mercedes-Benz Cars will have launched a total of more than 10 purely electrically driven vehicles and we will offer our customers at least one electrified alternative in every Mercedes-Benz model series, over 50 in all,” he says. “Plant Tuscaloosa and its dedicated team members are helping to offer our customers choices depending on their individual preference and needs.”
Following expansion of the Alabama operation’s assembly shop in Tuscaloosa County and modifications in other shops, MBUSI completed its first customer-ready Mercedes-Maybach GLS SUV in September. The Maybach brand, reserved for ultra-luxury Mercedes-Benz vehicles, had heretofore only been built in Germany. MBUSI is building the Mercedes-Maybach GLS for all markets worldwide.
$6 billion investment
Mercedes-Benz Cars has invested more than $6 billion in its Alabama operations since first locating in Tuscaloosa County in 1995. MBUSI employs more than 4,200 workers and its operations generate more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region. That compares to Mercedes-Benz AG global employment of 298,655, including 25,788 in U.S. operations.
MBUSI makes more than 300,000 units annually. Two-thirds of production goes to about 135 countries. MBUSI is the second-largest automotive exporter in the United States.
“We now have more than 25 years of experience in building SUVs, and we have produced more than 3.6 million vehicles since production began in 1997,” Goebel says. “Plant Tuscaloosa is now essentially considered `home of the SUVs’ and our team members have been instrumental to our success — with their incredible work ethic, their dedication to quality and their pride in placing the Mercedes-Benz star on each vehicle as it rolls off the line.”
The U.S. is a key market for Mercedes-Benz, which often seeks to build close to its big markets, Goebel says.
“With the addition of battery production, MBUSI is going to become an even more critical part of Mercedes-Benz AG’s electric offensive and the key element to flexibly and efficiently meet the global demand for electrified vehicles,” he says.