In 1993, the former Daimler-Benz AG (now Daimler AG), seeking to move closer to its customers and markets, selected Vance, Alabama (Tuscaloosa County) as the location for its first manufacturing facility in the United States. Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) was formed to fulfill the goal of producing the Mercedes-Benz M-Class Sport Utility Vehicle for the worldwide market.
Construction of the $300 million plant was completed in July 1996. In addition to body, paint and assembly shops, a comprehensive training facility is located at the Vance site near Tuscaloosa. This facility was renamed the Bill Taylor Institute (BTI) in 2009.
Production of the M-Class began in January 1997 and the first vehicles went on sale in the U.S. in September of that year.
Original projections were for 65,000 M-Class vehicles to be built at the Vance plant each year. Because of overwhelming demand, MBUSI invested an additional $80 million in 1998 and 1999 to expand the plant and increase annual production by 20 percent to 80,000. During the first eight years of production, some 350 vehicles a day came off the line, in two shifts. During the original M-Class’ production history, some 571,000 vehicles were produced in Vance, Alabama for the worldwide market.
During that time, MBUSI produced the following M-Class models: 3.7-liter V6 ML350, 5.0 liter V8 ML500, ML55 AMG and two diesel versions, the ML270 CDI, ML400 CDI, which were sold outside the United States. M-Class vehicles built in Vance are sold in more than 135 countries.
The original M-class won more than 60 awards, including the 1998 North American Truck of the Year, 1998 Motor Trend Truck of the Year and Consumers Digest “Best Buy”.
In August 2000, Daimler announced plans for a $600 million expansion of the Vance facility. The expansion doubled production capacity to 160,000 vehicles per year, for both the second generation M-Class, the new R-Class Grand Sports Tourer and the GL-Class, the first full-size SUV produced by Mercedes-Benz. This expansion also doubled the size of the plant and increased the workforce from approximately 2,000 to 4,000.
Production of the new M-Class began on December 3, 2004. The R-Class Grand Sports Tourer had its worldwide premiere at the New York International Auto Show in March 2005. Rounding out the plant’s trio of products is the GL-Class, which went on sale in mid-2006. With these three products, MBUSI is the largest exporter in the State of Alabama with more than $1 billion exported annually. Today, approximately 30 Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers are located in Alabama and 120 suppliers work as partners in the production of the new M-Class, R-Class and GL-Class. More than two-thirds of components come from North American suppliers, primarily in the U.S., with engines and transmissions coming from Mercedes-Benz plants in Germany.
Training is a vital component of MBUSI’s corporate strategy. Team Members have undergone extensive training at plants in Germany as well as on the line in Vance. AIDT, a state agency that specializes in workforce training, provided the first pre-employment training program for MBUSI’s 2,000 prospective employees and continues to offer this service, as well as other types of training. Today, more than 4,000 Team Members participate in training classes provided by AIDT at the Bill Taylor Institute. AIDT also provides training on site at the plant.
MBUSI alone is responsible for more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region and has an annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion.
The combination of German and American Team Members, with experience from U.S. and Japanese automakers, as well as from Mercedes-Benz, resulted in a “melting pot” in terms of MBUSI’s practices and procedures. The creation of MBUSI developed a new corporate culture, based on teamwork and open communication.
"Nothing but the best for our customers and environment.
Let's do our best together with continuous improvement."
AIDT / Bill Taylor Institute