In a move that speaks volumes about the evolution of Mercedes-Benz and U.S. consumers, the luxury automaker is considering booting its best-selling sedan out of U.S. production, say sources familiar with the situation, to make way for the vehicles Americans want most — light trucks.
Where and when the C class will move are unclear, and Mercedes executives have declined to comment on the plan, which forecasters believe will come as early as next year.
The shift is a telling move.
Mercedes spent nearly five years moving the C class into production at its sole U.S. factory, in Vance, Ala. It announced the decision during the global economic downturn in 2009, braving a backlash from German union officials who decried losing such a cornerstone of German factory output to the nonunion Alabama plant.
It required considerable time and money to retool the U.S. assembly line and find local suppliers to finally launch the American C class in 2014. At the time, Mercedes estimated the move was creating 1,000 U.S. jobs.
Now, just five years later, the sedan appears headed out of America — a casualty of shifting U.S. consumer trends. According to industry forecaster LMC Automotive, C-class sedan production in Vance will end in the fourth quarter of 2020.
That scenario represents a new reality for a company that was long defined by luxury sedans and coupes and was once hesitant to sell a single light truck. It's a different Mercedes. The company expects SUVs and crossovers to represent about 60 percent of its sales in the U.S. next year.
Its American factory is already feeling the pinch of that reality.