Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly characterized the materials and manufacturing processes planned to build the next-generation Mercedes C class.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The next generation of Mercedes-Benz SUVs produced at the company’s Vance, Ala., plant will likely shed weight as Mercedes adds more aluminum and expands the use of the advanced joining processes used in making the current C-Class sedan.
Like all other manufacturers, Mercedes is under pressure to reduce vehicle weight as fuel economy standards tighten. Lower curb weight reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
Details are sketchy, but in a presentation at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars here Monday, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International CEO Jason Hoff dropped some hints about the company's next SUVs.
Hoff, who said he didn’t want to reveal too much, said suppliers will provide some of the joining technologies used in the next generation SUVs. The vehicles could also get increased use of laser welding, riveting and bonding.
Aluminum content has been growing as more automakers use the lightweight sheet metal for doors, hoods, trunk lids and other nonstructural components. The body and bed of the Ford F-150 is made entirely of aluminum. It is held together with a variety of rivets, screws and glue.
The emerging metal processes are part of a technological restructuring occurring at automakers. The practices are not merely new, they are expensive, requiring significant retooling of factories to make them work.
Mercedes spent $1.3 billion to make changes to its Alabama assembly plant to launch the C class there in late 2014, although that price tag included various other changes and construction there.
The current C class, which was last redesigned in late 2014, weighs between 3,417 and 4,057 pounds, depending on options. But the aluminum-intensive Cadillac CT6, which has a wheelbase that is 11 inches longer, weighs between 3,647 and 4,385 pounds.