VANCE, Alabama, USA - DaimlerChrysler wants to expand not just the US factory that builds the M-class sport-utility, but also the M-class concept.
Jurgen Hubbert, Daimler-Chrysler board member in charge of Mercedes-Benz, said the automaker is working on new ideas for the M-class.
'We might expand on it as a family,' Hubbert said. 'We have some interesting ideas. If we go into interesting niches, we want to be the first to market.'
The company plans to boost capacity at the Vance, Alabama, factory to 160,000 vehicles a year, up from 80,000 a year. About 25,000 of the total will replace M-class volume that is being supplied by Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in Graz, Austria. DaimlerChrysler's contract with Steyr for European M-class production will expire in 2003.
The new generation M-class will launch in 2004.
That will translate to a net increase of about 55,000 units of annual production for new M-class variations or additional sales of the existing models.
Mercedes wants to be certain it can shift production among M-class platform versions as the market dictates.
'The key word will be flexibility,' Bill Taylor, president of Mercedes-Benz US International Inc. said. 'Both lines have to be able to do whatever.'