Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. is preparing to launch its fourth new model in a 12-month period at its Vance, Ala., assembly plant.
Mercedes has moved the upcoming U.S.-built sibling of the Austrian-built G-Wagen SUV into production trials.
Commercial production of the full-sized model, which has three rows of seats, could begin before year end.
The Vance plant opened in 1997, and a $600 million makeover and expansion completed in December 2004 has brought a rash of new models.
This year Mercedes launched a redesigned M-class SUV and two sizes of the new R-class Grand Sports Tourer crossover. One was a short-wheelbase version being sold only in Europe.
Bill Taylor, CEO of the Alabama subsidiary, said the plant is producing almost 800 vehicles a day.
Out of that number, about 240 a day are R classes, he said.
That represents an annualized level of production of 200,000 vehicles a year, or 40,000 more than the expanded plant was designed to handle.
To fill demand for the new R class and M class, Mercedes is running two hours of overtime production on both weekday shifts.
The plant is not working weekends.
Mercedes has not officially revealed the name of the plant's newest model.
But the company has indicated that it will not necessarily replace the older G500, which is produced in Graz, Austria.
The new version has no components in common with the Austrian model but does share parts with the M class.
You may e-mail Lindsay Chappell at