DaimlerChrysler's Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama has undergone a R3,6-billion upgrade as Mercedes-Benz prepares to increase production of its newly-launched M-Class.

DaimlerChrysler's Tuscaloosa plant in Alabama has undergone a R3,6-billion upgrade as Mercedes-Benz prepares to increase production of its newly-launched M-Class.

The revamped US plant, spanning approximately 280 000 m2, has officially been opened. It manufactures the new M-Class SUV as well as the R-Class crossover MPV (available in the US only).

DaimlerChrysler has spent about R3,6 billion on upgrading the plant, and the development will allow for the production of multiple products.

The expanded plant now includes two assembly shops, two paint shops and an expanded body shop. The Tuscaloosa plant uses a flexible production model that assures "just-in-sequence" assembly and "just-in-time" delivery.

The workforce at Tuscaloosa was recently doubled to 4 000 employees and the production capacity has increased to 160 000 units per year.

Production of the redesigned SUV began last December for sales in the US to start in April. The new US-sourced M-Class should be available in South Africa towards the end of 2005.