The pressure is on for Mercedes-Benz to complete the $1 billion expansion of its Vance, Ala., assembly plant now that the automaker has announced specifics of the electric vehicle production that will begin there in 2022.
Mercedes-Benz will produce battery-powered versions of its popular GLS and GLE utility vehicles at the site, currently the global production center for the two internal-combustion models.
U.S. production of the electric EQS SUV is expected to begin in June 2022, while assembly of the EQE crossover will start in October of that year, according to AutoForecast Solutions. Mercedes could build about 40,000 of each electric model in its first full year of U.S. production.
Electric vehicle production will be integrated into the Alabama factory's existing body shop, paint shop and assembly lines. Construction also is underway on an off-site battery assembly plant on 270 acres nearby.
Because they are utility vehicles, the new EQS and EQE are critical to the U.S. market, where light trucks account for 75 percent of total vehicle sales.
AutoPacific analyst Ed Kim said fewer American consumers want luxury sedans, so Mercedes must offer its EVs in the body styles that people want most.
"Today, that means luxury SUVs. Offering electric luxury SUVs will speak to American consumers," Kim said. But he added, "electric luxury sedans will be critical to Mercedes- Benz's success with its EQ lineup in China."