- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2009


German carmaker Daimler AG said Wednesday that it will move some of its Mercedes-Benz C-Class car production to its Alabama plant to take advantage of a growing market, lower production costs and avoid currency fluctuations.

Daimler, based in Stuttgart, Germany, said production of the new generation of the C-Class should start in 2014 at the plant at Vance, near Tuscaloosa. It added that the move will maintain its competitiveness, utilize growth opportunities and let it respond to markets faster and with more flexibility.

Daimler said that the move would protect jobs in Germany over the long term and that new workers would be hired in Alabama.

In a conference call after the announcement, Rainer Schmueckle, Daimler’s chief operating officer, said the company could add about 1,000 jobs to the current 2,800 in Alabama, starting in 2014. Further investments will be made there, though Daimler didn’t provide details.

The carmaker said the Alabama plant will continue to produce the R-, M- and GL-Class vehicles, which are SUVs and SUV-like vehicles. The C-Class will be the first sedan produced at the Alabama plant.

While German autoworkers protested, officials welcomed the news in the mainly rural area of western Alabama, where unemployment is in the mid-teens in many counties.

A $300 million expansion is under way at the factory, but employment is down from a peak of about 4,000 before the recession hit.

“The good news is we have a Mercedes plant that is expanding. From a community standpoint, it helps us position ourselves for when the economy turns around,” said Johnnie Aycock, president of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.

The lack of unions at the factory “doesn’t hurt,” Mr. Aycock said, but added: “This is such a productive plant. They’re very cost-effective … because they started from scratch almost. They put in an entirely new production system that’s being replicated around the world.”

Daimler said the U.S. market is expected to grow, presenting more opportunities and making it “essential to have production facilities of the C-Class close to the market. The sedan version of the series is already the best-selling Mercedes-Benz model in the U.S. market.”

The company also said employment levels at its Sindelfingen plant in southern Germany would be maintained. European production of the C-Class will be moved to the Bremen plant in northern Germany. In return, Sindelfingen will get production of the SL, a sports coupe, starting in 2014.

About 1,800 workers in Sindelfingen who will not be absorbed by the production of the SL will be offered other employment, Daimler said.

The C-Class line - which includes a sedan, coupe and wagon - is built in Sindelfingen and Bremen, as well as in South Africa and China.

Workers at Sindelfingen, the company’s biggest German car plant, protested the plans for a third day Wednesday, stopping production of the C-, E- and S-Class cars. Unions said the company had to provide workers with more details of their plans.

The workers’ council at Bremen also voiced its concerns on the moves.

Juergen Coors, a Bremen workers’ council spokesman, called it a basic decision to “leave Germany as a production location” and criticized the company for “making decisions over the heads of workers.”

Mr. Coors predicted that in future, workers in Bremen would also face the same problems that workers at Sindelfingen are currently facing.

“We are aware of our Sindelfingen employees’ great emotional attachment to the C-Class and we recognize the outstanding work that they perform every day. So this decision was not made easily,” Dieter Zetsche, the company’s chief executive said in the report, adding that “Germany is and will remain at the heart of our production network.”

Daimler recently said it would invest about $4.5 billion in its German sites to expand and upgrade.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide