BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- When it reaches full volume over the next two years, the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala., will account for one-fifth of total revenues for the Mercedes Car Group, according to the group's head of world production.
That is an outsized role for the plant, which was a small experiment for the brand when Mercedes-Benz decided to build it in 1993.
Full production will mean 160,000 vehicles a year.
This year the group will sell 1.2 million vehicles worldwide - twice what it sold when it decided to build the U.S. factory.
"It will be significant to the long-term success of DaimlerChrysler," Hans-Heinrich Weingarten, executive vice president for Mercedes production, said last week at the Automotive News Manufacturing Conference. He appeared by satellite hook-up.
Weingarten said total investment in the Alabama plant, combined with product development expenditures of the plant's M-class SUV and R-class sport wagon, stands at $3.5 billion. That is 10 times the original $350 million Mercedes spent to construct the plant in the 1990s.
"It shows our customers that Mercedes is willing to invest in our product," Weingarten said.
Bill Taylor, CEO of the Vance operation, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., said the new R class has just begun production and will go on sale this year.
Worldwide sales will begin in 2006.
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