The Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance will stop producing the C-Class sedan according to a press release today by the automakers's parent company Daimler.  According to the release, the Vance plant will focus only on the production of sport utility vehicles. The M-Class sport utility was originally the only vehicle produced when the plant opened.

Mercedes spent nearly five years preparing the C class for production at its sole U.S. factory, in Vance. The company spent considerable effort, new construction and resources to retool it's Tuscaloosa County assembly line before launching the American C class in 2014. The company estimated 1,000 new jobs from the new production line.

Now, just five years later the C class appears to be a casualty of shifting U.S. consumer trends and a COVID-19 weakened economy. “Due to the high demand and variety in our SUV models, Mercedes-Benz AG has decided to provisionally dedicate its production capacities in Tuscaloosa to producing its SUV models GLE, GLE Coupe, GLS and GLS Maybach,” the company said in the statement.  Global GLS sales have been forecast to increase 30 percent over the next four years, while GLE crossover sales are expected to grow 28 percent during that time.

The 6 million-square-foot plant has been shutdown twice this year due to the pandemic and is currently not staffed at capacity. Vance is reported to be preparing to introduce more SUV and crossover volume to the market.

Vance is not the only site where Mercedes produces the C class. The luxury sedan is also made in Bremen, Germany; East London, South Africa; and Beijing. C-class production from the U.S. could head to Mercedes' South Africa plant, which produces C-class sedans for export to right- and left-hand drive markets.

The Vance plant remains a key cog in Mercedes plans.  A $1.3 billion expansion is preparing the plant with high technology for the launch of electric vehicles. Mercedes predicts its EQ sub-brand of electric vehicles could account for 15 to 25 percent of its global sales by 2025.

Mercedes calls its plans “Project Gateway” because it sets the facility on a new path of technological advancement. The project represents the latest in a series of a half-dozen expansions at the Tuscaloosa County facility, where production was launched in 1997.

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