Mercedes-Benz has launched production of the all-electric luxury EQS SUV at its Tuscaloosa County plant, part of a global strategy of next-generation technology that is ushering in a new era for Alabama’s auto industry.
Mercedes has invested $7 billion in the state since it arrived in the early 1990s, and Alabama workers began producing the M-Class SUV in 1997. Multiple expansions, new model launches and innovation upgrades have followed, with more than 4 million vehicles shipped from the plant around the world.
Five years ago, the company announced a $1 billion investment in electric vehicle production, adding a state-of-the-art battery factory in nearby Bibb County, which opened in March.
Production of another all-electric model, the EQE SUV, is expected to start later this year.
Officials on hand for a celebration of the EQS SUV emphasized the experience of Mercedes’ 4,500-member local workforce, as well as the power of community partnerships.
About 300 workers cheered as the Alabama-built EQS SUV was officially unveiled.
“We have a highly skilled and motivated team that has absolutely delivered in the successful product launch of the new EQS SUV,” said Michael Göbel, president and CEO of Mercedes’ Alabama operations.
“Our team members in Tuscaloosa have shown a lot of flexibility, energy and commitment in helping us to achieve milestone after milestone since our first Mercedes-Benz rolled off the production line more than 25 years ago.”
Göbel also thanked local and state worker recruitment and training organizations for assistance in the latest hiring push that has added more than 1,000 employees amid preparations for EV production and growing demand for other vehicles.
“That is how we made it happen. We did it together as a team and as a community,” Göbel said.
Today’s celebration was jubilant and at times emotional, as employees recounted the challenges of overcoming obstacles brought on by a global pandemic.
“The biggest part for me was being part of a project that was so big for Mercedes’ future, not only in Alabama but around the world,” said Rachel Wyatt.
The experience of Mercedes’ Alabama workforce is one of the key reasons behind the successful EQS SUV launch, said Jörg Burzer, member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, Production and Supply Chain.
Burzer said Mercedes’ production network Is well positioned for the sustainable and rapid scaling of electric vehicle volumes.
“With the new EQS SUV joining our production portfolio of all-electric Mercedes-EQ models, we reached another important milestone in our strategy to go all electric by the end of the decade — wherever market conditions allow,” he said.
“I am absolutely sure that our great Tuscaloosa team will make the electric SUV another great success.”
The EQS SUV is the third vehicle in Mercedes’ all-electric platform and part of a plan to produce eight such models at seven locations on three continents. U.S. pricing has not been announced, but the European version is priced at more than 100,000 euros, roughly $100,000.
The plant began integrating the EQS SUV into its assembly line eight or nine months ago, and now the output of Assembly 1 is entirely electric vehicles, Göbel said
For a while, the line was producing EVs alongside vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines.
“This kind of flexibility is quite important to us in the future, because we have to build what the customer wants,” Göbel said.
Mercedes’ Alabama workers continue to produce other models, including the GLE and GLS SUVs, the GLE Coupé and the GLS Maybach SUV. Last year, output at the Alabama plant topped 260,000 vehicles.
Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, helped Mercedes celebrate the EQS SUV today and talked about the state’s longtime partnership with the automaker.
From top officials at the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart to assembly line workers putting the finishing touches on new EQS SUVs and other models, there is a shared commitment to outstanding quality and efficiency in vehicles that are in high demand in markets around the world, he said.
Alabama is proud to work with Mercedes to help accomplish the strategic vision and goals that will carry the company far into the future.
“What a great history between the state of Alabama and Mercedes-Benz — 25 years of firsts,” he said.
“And the next 25 years is going to be electric. The future of Mercedes-Benz is made in Alabama.”
(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)
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