AM General LLC, the South Bend, Ind., designer and builder of heavy military and commercial vehicles, has been contracted by Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. to manufacture the Mercedes-Benz R-Class luxury sport utility vehicles. The production volumes and financial terms were not announced, but manufacturing will begin this summer at AM General’s 675,000-sq.ft. Commercial Assembly Plant in Mishawaka, Ind.
Introduced in 2006, the Mercedes R-Class was the first full-sized multi-purpose vehicle produced by Mercedes-Benz. Currently, it is assembled by Mercedes at its assembly plant in Vance, Ala., but it is sold exclusively in China. The automaker sold 12,700 of the vehicles there in 2013.
According to Mercedes, the production move is necessary so that it can begin assembling a new SUV, the GLE Coupe, as well as make available production capacity for other new models for the North American market.
The Mishawaka plant formerly manufactured the Hummer H2 under contract to General Motors, until that product was discontinued in 2009. Currently, it assembles the AM General MV-1, a wheelchair-accessible van. It is capable of producing 70,000 vehicles per year.
A second plant at the same location produces military vehicles.
The Commercial Assembly Plant has robotic welding, painting, and assembly capabilities, and now will become the only contract manufacturer in the U.S. for Mercedes vehicles.
While AM General has 1,500 workers at those plants and others, it plans to hire and train “hundreds of new workers” before starting production of the Mercedes R-Class.
“AM General is pleased to have been selected by Mercedes-Benz to build this vehicle at our world-class commercial vehicle facility in Mishawaka. We look forward to a long-term relationship with Mercedes and expanding our services to the U.S. and global auto industry,” stated Charlie Hall, president and CEO.