World Class in Dixieland
One thing that Mercedes has been able to do is to build a reputation for itself, built on quality and customer satisfaction. For some, when we hear the name Mercedes, we think of sleek, sexy, and expensive automobiles. However, we also know that when they turn that key, the German engineering behind that vehicle will not fail us. Mercedes relies on the rock solid reputation, and for them to build a vehicle outside of Germany is a huge risk, high reward endeavor. However, they believe that their new facility in Vance, Alabama will help them to get the new M-class into the market faster to compete with the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Gran Cherokee.
Before we can make an educated answer to the question, if Mercedes risks' diluting it's made in Germany reputation, we need to look at Mercedes' plan. They certainly got a sweet deal from the state of Alabama to build their factory in Tuscaloosa County. With the money that they saved by investing in Alabama, they were able to build a state of the art factory. They have also reinvented the way they run their production line. The new factory has many innovations for Mercedes, like the new design of their production floor, that lets workers unilaterally stop the assembly line to correct manufacturing problems. The administration offices run through the middle of the manufacturing area, providing easy access to the administrators. Mercedes has gone through a rigorous overhaul to appeal to their new U.S. workers and it seems to be working out well. The American workers are learning to say that they are building a Mercedes instead of saying we are just building a car.
Although we looked at the vision that Mercedes has for its new plant in Vance, Alabama, is it possible to keep the tarnished reputation of the U.S. autoworker off its new M-class. For those of
us that are old, enough to remember how the Big 3 automakers almost collapsed back in the late 70's, early 80's, the world was made aware of the troubles in these plants. The autoworkers seemed to be sucking the companies dry with their extravagant labor agreements, while their levity, quality and design of their product was lackluster. The oil embargo that OPEC orchestrated also revealed a problem with U.S. automakers, they were unwilling to adapt to the changing environment around them. Meanwhile the Japanese automakers were busy making fuel-efficient, smaller, less expensive vehicles; the Big 3 resisted this change with their very fiber. They continued to crank out their muscle cars, and their gas-guzzlers. Consumers lost confidence in the U.S. automobile and quickly switched to the cheaper more fuel-efficient Japanese models.
However, what does this have to do with the new Mercedes' plant and the new M-class? The world still remembers those U.S. automakers and the employees that they had. They are a witness to the eventual fall of...