Mercedes-Benz has started production of the EQS SUV as it expands its all-electric lineup in its attempt to catch up to EV front-runner Tesla.
The EQS SUV will be the brand’s flagship full-electric SUV and is being built for global markets including Europe at Mercedes’s U.S. plant in Vance, Alabama.
The Vance factory, one of seven EV production sites on three continents, could deliver more than 100,000 EVs next year, or about a third of its 305,000-unit annual capacity.
Jörg Burzer, global head of Mercedes-Benz production, said the automaker’s manufacturing network is “well positioned for the sustainable and rapid scaling of electric vehicle volumes.”
The company’s Alabama plant will continue to build gasoline-powered versions of the GLE and GLS alongside the battery-electric models. EV production will integrate into the plant’s existing body and paint shop and assembly lines.
The newly electrified Alabama plant is part of an “EV Belt” emerging across the Southeast of the U.S.
Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have announced battery-vehicle assembly plants in neighboring Tennessee. Volvo will begin building electric crossovers at its Ridgeville, South Carolina, factory early next year.
Meanwhile, Georgia has landed multibillion-dollar EV factories from Hyundai Motor Co. and Rivian Automotive.
Mercedes has invested in battery production and an ecosystem of suppliers to prepare for EV production in Alabama.
In March, the automaker opened a battery assembly venture located on 270 acres near the main vehicle factory.
And in April, supplier Envision AESC said it will build a $2 billion factory 300 miles away in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to supply a new generation of battery components for Mercedes.
Envision AESC’s battery cell and module plant will open in 2025 and employ 2,000 workers. It will be able to supply 300,000 vehicles a year by 2027.
Envision AESC Group CEO Shoichi Matsumoto said the Kentucky factory will also supply other U.S. automakers as the industry amps up its electrification plans.
“We will produce batteries for numerous electric vehicle manufacturers,” Matsumoto told Automotive News. “We have growth plans for both the U.S. and other regions around the world.”
Much is riding on the Alabama plant as Mercedes pivots into an all-electric brand in markets ready for the switch.
The company expects EVs to account for about half of its U.S. sales by 2030, executives revealed at the brand’s national dealer meeting this year. Next year, Mercedes aims to sell up to 45,000 EQ-branded electric vehicles here.
Mercedes launched its all-electric EQ subbrand with the debut of the EQS sedan last fall. The EQS SUV will be joined in the U.S. this year by two electric crossovers, the compact EQB and midsize EQE SUV. The EQE sedan went on sale in Europe earlier this year and will be launched in the U.S. toward the end of the second quarter.
The EQS SUV, built on Mercedes’ new EVA2 platform, is powered by a 107.8-kilowatt-hour battery that delivers an estimated 400 miles of driving range.
The single motor rwd EQS 450+ delivers 355 hp, while the dual-motor EQS 580 4Matic pumps out 536 hp.
A Maybach variant of the electric SUV will also be built in Vance and exported to Europe and other global markets.