Mercedes-Benz said it will have an electric version of all vehicles by 2022 as part of a global initiative that has its Alabama plant playing a pivotal role.
“Our electric vehicles will be built in six plants on three continents,” said Markus Schäfer, member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain. “We address every market segment: from the Smart fortwo to the large SUV.”
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, the company’s Alabama operations in Tuscaloosa County, is its only U.S. plant and will produce electric versions of the vehicles on the assembly line there. MBUSI makes the C-Class sedan for the North American market and the GLS and GLE SUVs and the GLE Coupe for the U.S. and global markets.
Jason Hoff, CEO of MBUSI, said the Alabama plant is gearing up to make electric vehicles.
“Building an electric car, obviously, is going to bring some new challenges and we’re going to build electric cars right alongside our regular combustion engine cars and that’s going to be an interesting challenge – how we integrate different technologies, different production processes into our traditional processes,” Hoff told Alabama NewsCenter during a Facebook Live broadcast from MBUSI last month. “But we’re excited about it, we’re already getting the work started. We’ve got the first few people working on it and it will just develop from there.”
Mercedes said the Hambach, Germany, plant is producing the Smart fortwo Coupe and Cabriolet, which are the first cars in the next generation of EVs. The Mercedes plant in Bremen, Germany, will produce the EQC, an all-electric SUV, starting next year. That will be followed by other vehicles in the EQ line that will be built at BBAC, a joint venture between Mercedes parent company Daimler and BAIC in China. Mercedes plants in Rastatt and Sindelfingen, Germany, will join the Tuscaloosa plant as the next three to add EV production.
In September, Mercedes used its 20th anniversary of producing vehicles in Alabama to announce a $1 billion expansion that will produce batteries, hybrid and electric vehicles at the plant.
“Mercedes’ decision to build a battery factory and launch electric vehicle production in Alabama positions the state as a leader in a disruptive technology that is poised to dramatically change the direction of the auto industry,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “This sends a powerful message that automakers operating in Alabama will be involved in the industry’s most advanced technologies and that the state is ready for what’s coming next.”
Mercedes said the battery initiative goes hand-in-hand with the vehicle production.
“The battery is the key component of e-mobility,” Schäfer said. “As batteries are the heart of our electric vehicles we put a great emphasis on building them in our own factories. With our global battery network, we are in an excellent position: As we are close to our vehicle plants we can ensure the optimal supply of production. In case of a short-term high demand in another part of the world, our battery factories are also well prepared for export.”
Mercedes is investing more than $12.3 billion to expand its electrical fleet around the world, along with an additional $1.2 billion in a global battery production network.
“The electric initiative of Mercedes-Benz Cars is right on track,” Schäfer said. “Our global production network is ready for e-mobility. We are electrifying the future.”
Having its Alabama plant play a pivotal role speaks volumes, officials said.
“Mercedes-Benz has called its global electric initiative an ‘important strategic course’ for the future, so its decision to build electric vehicles in Tuscaloosa makes an incredibly strong statement about how much confidence the company has in Alabama and its workforce,” said Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. “Alabama has earned a place in the Mercedes global manufacturing network as an important location where the company can carry out bold and ambitious plans.”
Hoff said it’s fitting that the plant that started SUV production for Mercedes more than two decades ago is taking the lead in the future of SUV production for the automaker.
“We’re the home of the SUVs and that’s really what we’re known for and what we stand by,” he said. “With the expansion of now an electrical SUV in the future, we feel that kind of cements our place with being the home of the SUVs.”