Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. spent last week sorting out the damage and assisting employees after a tornado blew through Tuscaloosa and parts of central Alabama Dec. 16.
Although located near Tuscaloosa in Vance, Ala., the Mercedes-Benz plant that builds the M-class sport-utility sustained no direct damage. But the automaker discovered Monday, Dec. 18, that the storm had destroyed the homes of five employees and damaged the homes of 25 others.
Late last week the automaker still was surveying its supply chain to determine the extent of damage there. There were no interruptions in the week's production, which halted Thursday, Dec. 21, for the traditional holiday shutdown.
The storm killed 11 people in Alabama and injured 75. Federal emergency personnel estimated that at least 430 buildings were damaged.
The tornado caught a Mercedes car hauler in transit while parked off the highway. The truck was flipped over and all 12 Mercedes M-class sport-utilities on board were damaged. The driver was not hurt.
Mercedes employees began a campaign to help affected co-workers last week. The company maintains apartments in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa area for managers who work at the plant on a temporary basis. The automaker made that housing available to employee families who needed shelter.
At the same time, company personnel have been given time off to assist affected employees and help clean up the damage. Part of that job has included replacing Christmas gifts.
'We're trying to help them get their lives back together,' plant spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald said. 'Some of them lost everything - their homes, even their Christmas trees and all of the gifts they had bought. We've asked for a list so we can go out and do their shopping for them.'
The automaker delivered new Christmas trees where needed, Jerald said. Employees with trucks and chain saws cleaned up property damage.
To provide additional help, Mercedes wrote a $500,000 check to the American Red Cross. The donation was earmarked for victims of the Alabama storm. Later in the week, Mercedes made an additional donation of $50,000 to the local Salvation Army.
A plant under construction by Honda of Alabama Manufacturing Inc. in Lincoln, Ala., was not affected by the tornado, a Honda spokesman said.