Sedans

Mercedes might pull C-Class from Alabama to make room for SUVs, report says

Future C-Class sedans might come from South Africa, instead.

The C-Class is still mighty good, but its design and tech is now a generation behind.

Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

Even as gas prices fluctuate, buyers continue to favor SUVs and crossovers in ever-greater numbers, pushing sedans by the wayside. It's such a strong push that it might cause at least one automaker to move its sedan manufacturing outside US borders to make room for more utility vehicles.

Despite its position as its best-selling sedan in the US, Mercedes-Benz might move C-Class production out of its Alabama plant, Automotive News reports, citing sources "familiar with the situation." Mercedes-Benz declined to comment to AN. The C-Class came here in 2014, a five-year process that, according to the report, was met with much pearl-clutching from German unions.

The reason for its departure is simple -- even though it still sells well, other cars sell better. And by cars, I mean "light trucks," which include SUVs and crossovers. According to AN's report, Mercedes-Benz estimates that some 60 percent of its US sales next year will be high-sided vehicles. It's also taking up space at an already busy plant: Operating at 93 percent capacity, the plant is also responsible for popular utes like the GLS-Class and GLE-Class, both of which are expected to see increased sales over the next few years. The C-Class has occupied an ever-shrinking slice of Mercedes' US market production, so it seems like the right time to plan a move.

But where will it go? AN's report points out that Mercedes also builds the C-Class in Germany, South Africa and China. Production of US-spec C-Classes would likely move to South Africa, where there's plenty of plant capacity.

Alabama is also gearing up for a whole lot of electric vehicles. The plant is in the midst of a $1 billion upgrade that will add electric-vehicle production to the facility's portfolio. AN's report clams that two new EQ vehicles, positioned similarly to the GLE and GLS, will start production in Alabama in 2020 and 2022, respectively, although Mercedes-Benz has not announced those vehicles yet. Even without its bread-and-butter C-Class, the automaker's production doesn't sound like it's slowing down any time soon.