To Mercedes and Beyond


Chamber delegation visits the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant, Bryant-Denny Stadium, and the President’s Mansion.

One of the highlights of the leadership visit was taking a tour of the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz assembly plant, which is the only one in North America.

The first vehicle rolled off the line 23 years ago, and the plant produced 320 vehicles last year.

The six million square-feet facility sits on 15 acres, employs 4000 team members, and utilizes 2600 robots. The plant is responsible for producing the GLE and GLS SUVs, and has stopped giving public tours while it produces a line of SUV’s that is yet to be released to the public.

“We have the slowest production line of any car manufacturer,” says Dustin, the director of the on-site museum and our tour guide. “We want to promote quality over quantity.”

The delegation was able to witness the trim line and door assembly stations, where each team member has 99 seconds to perform their function. What if there’s a conveyor issue, a shortage of parts, or the battery dies in their drill? Team members pull a chord that alerts the team to the problem.

Ready for the dash? With the help of a lift, the process takes two minutes.

How do they put it all together? At the Marriage Right station, team members use pedals to lift the engine/chassis and align it to the body. It is then secured with 20 bolts.

Recruiting and retaining employees is critical for the plant, which has added an on-site daycare, medical clinic, and Starbucks to sweeten the pot. Team members work five days a week in three shifts, have weekends and holidays off, and earn between $17-60 an hour.

Understanding the needs of the plant is a critical component in meeting the workforce development needs for the city.

While in Tuscaloosa, the delegation also toured Bryant-Denny Stadium, home of the University of Alabama’s football team. The stadium was built in 1929 and can seat 101,821 fans, making it one of the 10 largest on-campus football stadiums in the country.

Following the stadium tour, the University hosted the delegation for a welcome reception at the President’s Mansion. The mansion is the greatest example of Greek revival architecture in the South, was completed in 1841, and has housed the president’s family ever since.