Mercedes-Benz, the third largest premium automaker in the world and the second biggest luxury brand in the US, has announced plans to outsource the production output of its R-Class minivan.
The decision comes as the American buyers seem to have lost interest in large station wagons and minivans – with the R-Class being a luxury take on a hybrid of the two segments. Additionally, the consumers have rekindled their long relationship with pickup trucks and SUVs/crossovers – with these segments outselling passenger cars each month last year. Naturally, the German automaker is moving the R-Class production out of the way to make room on the production lines for additional SUV units as it expands the range. AM General LLC has been tasked with the R-Class production starting with mid-2015 at its commercial assembly facility in Mishawaka, Indiana – a multiyear deal has been signed already by both companies, according to a joint statement.
Markus Schaefer, Mercedes’s head of manufacturing, commented in a separate statement “Within our growth strategy we are expanding our global production network, thus increasing flexibility.” Mercedes, which aims to recapture the top global spot among luxury carmakers, plans to introduce four new or updated SUVs in 2015, starting with the NAIAS announced mid-sized GLE coupe and the US plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is the main production site for all of the company’s SUVs. The factory, opened back in 1997 to cater for the production of the Mercedes M-Class (now called GLE), is also producing the C-Class sedan since last June and is expected to increase capacity from 235,000 last year to at least 300,000 units in 2015.