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In August 2014, executives with Mercedes-Benz were visiting AM General's Commercial Assembly Plant in Mishawaka, asking themselves if northern Indiana and AM General were a good fit for the luxury vehicle brand.
[In August 2015], barely a year after that visit, the white-gloved hands of workers polished away final flaws from the sleek, black exterior of a Mercedes-Benz R-Class — the Mercedes vehicle now in full production and being made exclusively by AM General.
Mercedes and AM General executives, elected officials and invited guests gathered in Mishawaka Tuesday to celebrate the launch of the vehicle in Mishawaka. AM General announced in January that the German-based luxury vehicle producer would be moving its R-Class manufacturing from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Indiana.
"One year later to actually be building cars on a production line is an incredible accomplishment," said Jason Hoff, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, about the short turnaround time from making the deal to full production. "It's a great statement and testimony to the people who are here."
It was AM General's ability to adapt quickly, like retooling its plant to build a new car, and the longstanding reputation of the company's workforce that made the company an ideal partner, Hoff said. This makes AM General the first and only U.S. company to be contracted to produce Mercedes vehicles. The deal runs for multiple years, but for competitive reasons, executives would not say the exact length of the contract or how many total units will be produced.
AM General does expect more than 200 jobs to be created at the plant, though, with many of the new employees having already been hired. It's because of the hardworking employees at AM General that the deal with Mercedes was possible, said Gov. Mike Pence. The deal also is a statement about the business environment of Indiana and should be seen as a source of encouragement across the state, he said.
"On days like today, there's a lot of credit to go around," Pence said Tuesday, "but most of the credit goes to the hardworking people in this community."
Two members of Congress were also in attendance Tuesday celebrating the success of AM General. Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown, said she couldn't be more grateful to the workers of northern Indiana because they are working together, forging a future for the state.
"We have shown the world again that there is no better place to invest in vehicle manufacturing than in AM General," Walorski said.
Having watched AM General come back from high job losses during the recession to growing today in the global economy, is "inspiring and touching," because of the tough time workers and the company have been through, said Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
The R-Class vehicles, which are being made in Mishawaka, have been sold exclusively in China since 2013.
Speaking to a crowded assembly plant floor Tuesday, Howard Glaser, president of AM General's commercial business, spoke about the kind of product they would be producing for Mercedes. Chinese consumers can rest assured that all of the same quality and luxury expected with Mercedes will still be found in AM Genera's products, he said, but there will be one thing special no car in China has ever had. A label reading "Made in Mishawaka."
Confident in the long-term demand for quality American manufacturing, Glaser echoed the statements of others that this is just the beginning of growth for the commercial side of AM General. Whether there are future deals with Mercedes down the road no one could say, but it's apparent AM General has left an impression with the luxury vehicle company.
"We are not going to let just anyone build this (R-Class)," Hoff said, "but we are confident we have picked a good partner."
Source: South Bend Tribune