There's one specific vehicle type to blame.
It was back in 2014 when Mercedes-Benz began building its C-Class in Vance, Alabama, the only factory the German automaker has in the US. The non-union facility obviously angered German union officials who were not happy seeing the hot-selling C-Class being built overseas. Well, at least it was hot-selling. Automotive News has learned that Mercedes is strongly considering ending C-Class production in the US in order to make room for the types of vehicles Americans want most: SUVs and crossovers.
The C-Class has been the automaker’s best-selling sedan for many years globally, but having local production for the American market also means catering to what that domestic market demands. It’s hard to believe that only five years ago C-Class production got underway in Alabama, which was an expensive plan for Mercedes to enact.
It now appears C-Class production will cease in the US in late 2020. Mercedes has yet to confirm this, but it sounds probable given the current and growing demand for light-duty vehicles. What’s also telling is that Mercedes’ 6 million-square-foot Alabama plant is already operating at 93 percent capacity – and yet it’s planning to increase SUV and crossover volume. The C-Class is simply in the way.
Alabama is also home to the GLS, GLE, and GLE Coupe. Global GLS sales are expected to increase 30 percent over the past four years while the GLE will likely experience a 28 percent growth in that time. Now, it’s important to make clear this does not spell the end of the C-Class.
Along with Alabama, C-Class production also takes place in Germany, South Africa, and Beijing. In the not too distant future, America will likely begin importing the C-Class from South Africa. There’s also another vital reason why Alabama is likely losing the C-Class: electric vehicles. Mercedes is now prepping a $1 billion expansion of its Alabama facility to build EVs for its new EQ subbrand. Was bringing C-Class production to America a mistake, overall? Perhaps, but at the time of Mercedes’ decision, sedans were still popular in the US. It’s amazing how fast the market has shifted.