Mercedes C-Class May Fall On Its Sword for American-made SUVs
Mercedes-Benz is reportedly considering moving C-Class production out of America to make room on its Alabama assembly line for more high-margin utility vehicles. Despite being the brand’s best-selling sedan in the United States, Mercedes knows it has to acknowledge the public’s growing propensity for luxurious light trucks.
While ignoring the present doesn’t seem like the wisest of business decisions, the market’s current trajectory is no secret. People want crossovers and SUVs and it looks as though Benz will happily provide them, even if it means icing out the still-popular C-Class before the end of next year.
Automotive News, which broke the story, began by chronicling the automaker’s efforts to bring the sedan to the United States. Following the plan’s 2009 announcement, it took Mercedes nearly five years to actually get the thing ready for domestic production at its singular U.S. factory in Vance, AL.
From Automotive News:
It required considerable time and money to retool the U.S. assembly line and find local suppliers to finally launch the American C class in 2014. At the time, Mercedes estimated the move was creating 1,000 U.S. jobs.
Now, just five years later, the sedan appears headed out of America — a casualty of shifting U.S. consumer trends. According to industry forecaster LMC Automotive, C-class sedan production in Vance will end in the fourth quarter of 2020.
That scenario represents a new reality for a company that was long defined by luxury sedans and coupes and was once hesitant to sell a single light truck. It’s a different Mercedes. The company expects SUVs and crossovers to represent about 60 percent of its sales in the U.S. next year.
Presently, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) is responsible for production of the GLS SUV, GLE crossovers, and the C-Class — all of which suffered lower-than-anticipated sales last year. While the C-Class remained the volume leader for 2018 with 60,410 deliveries, it has lost ground since 2013, when U.S. volume peaked at 88,251 units. The factory is also very close to reaching its maximum capacity, meaning MB would either have to expand the facility (something it’s already doing to support EV production) or move product around in order to escalate light truck manufacturing.
Mercedes-Benz declined to comment on the C-Class’ future, but it’s unlikely the sedan would simply be abandoned. The automaker already has a global production network for the model with factories in Germany, South Africa, and China (via its BBAC joint venture).
Still, the market’s swift shift toward crossover vehicles and SUVs should encourage Mercedes-Benz to be cautious in its planning. Back in 2009, when it initially wanted to bring C-Class production to America, the country still loved cars. Ten years on, the situation has changed. It’s not inconceivable to think it could happen again. Fortunately, there’s nothing about this alleged action that has alarm bells sounding on our end.
[Images: Daimler AG]
Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.
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