VANCE, Ala. -- Things were easier six years ago when Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. started building its first SUVs here.
There was one model - the ML320.
There was no metal stamping - it was all outsourced.
The key stamped parts came from just two suppliers, and mostly from a single local stamping plant owned by Ogihara America Corp.
But things are changing at Mercedes-Benz.
As the DaimlerChrysler subsidiary prepares for an enlarged U.S. mission, there are new complexities in manufacturing, more complex products, higher production volumes and a changed supply chain in the works.
One of the biggest changes is in Mercedes' supply of metal parts. When its factory expansion project is complete, Mercedes will have four key stampings suppliers - one of them Ogihara. The other three never have worked with Mercedes in North America.
Starting in late 2004, the new arrangement will be:
Why the change?
Jim Leyhew, manager for the 500,000-square-foot body shop that Mercedes is building at its assembly plant, calls it a response to the company's increasingly complex mission.