Mercedes-Benz Vans plant expansion to open ahead of schedule

LADSON, SC (WCSC) - The Mercedes-Benz Vans plant in Ladson is planning to open its doors ahead of schedule.

They announced on Wednesday that the expanded plant would be ready for business in less than a year.

The plant opened in 1999, and officials announced a $500 million expansion project to more than double its size in 2015.

"We know it's a great location with highly motivated people," said CEO and president of Mercedes-Benz Vans Michael Balke."We also see we have a business-oriented collaboration."

The plant has added nearly one million square feet with new body and paint shops.

The expansion project was initially estimated to take three years, but staff announced Wednesday that they plan to open the doors to the new sections by the second half of 2018.

"I'm very excited, it's massive," said Mark Allen who is the head of the body and paint shops for Mercedes-Benz Vans.

"The body shop welds together the body shells. The paint shop makes our vehicles nice and shiny and they have the responsibility to last long with corrosion protection," Balke explained.

Once the plant is fully operational, it plans to hire 1300 employees to manufacture an estimated 40,000 vans annually.

It will also have 182 robots on staff but 980 employees will be needed in manufacturing to keep operations on track.

"It's not just a job it's a career. We want people who see their future with us in the company," Balke said.

"In today's world, you have to have robots for precision that you need in building a vehicle, however it's the people, at the end of the day, that build the vehicles here," Allen said. "We know this is more than just building a van, it's building futures."

Once the expansion project is completed by 2020, this plant will be the first-of its kind for Mercedes-Benz Vans in the United States.

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