Mercedes’ New Program Will Bring $30 Million to the Alabama Economy

Over the course of four years, Mercedes-Benz will bring 26,000 employees to Birmingham, Alabama to participate in the company’s new “Brand Immersion Experience.”

The two-day, three-night trip will whisk employees away to the Tuscaloosa County plant, where they’ll visit the company museum, tourist center, and even the manufacturing space. What’s more, the employees will also get the chance to drive the cars, too.

Mercedes will either bus the employees in or fly them in to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Once in the Heart of Dixie, they’ll stay in Birmingham hotels and dine at Birmingham restaurants — all as part of the program, which is expected to cost about $30 million over its entire course.

“We are excited to work with Mercedes to host these employees over the next few years,” said William Bell, the mayor of Birmingham. “Our efforts to attract visitors and tourists from around the world to give them an opportunity to learn about Birmingham’s historic legacy and spend time and money in the city is starting to pay off. We look forward to this being the first of many large groups and conventions to frequent the city.”

The program is set to begin pilot testing at the end of September, and will truly begin in earnest at the end of 2014. Each week, two groups of employees will undergo the experience, with about 70 groups going through the program each year for a total of 280 groups.

“The only time we’ll pause is during the big football matches,” said Gareth Joyce, vice president of customer service for Mercedes Benz USA.

The Brand Immersion Program was announced alongside Mercedes’s plans for expanding its facilities. The Tuscaloosa County plant will have the ability to manufacture 300,000 cars per year by 2015, up from 2013’s record of 185,000.

Mercedes’ manufacturing expansion is part of a larger picture that means good things. Since its revival after the 2008 meltdown, the automobile industry has been growing steadily. Renewed consumer confidence in the economy and higher spending have helped to drive sales of both light- and heavy-duty automobiles.

This is good news not only for Alabama’s economy, but for the national economy as well. More cars being sold means more repair work and maintenance will be needed. Currently, there are an estimated 87,032 auto repair businesses in the United States, so it’s logical to predict that this number will grow as the automobile industry continues to expand.

If all goes as well as could be predicted, the Brand Immersion Experience might get to grow, too.

“I see the potential to make this an evergreen program,” said Joyce. “With the rate at which the brand is growing, I can see continuing to use this as a development platform into the future.”

Mercedes is constantly on the lookout for creative ways to give both customers and employees a more complete experience of their brand, noted Joyce.

“They’re going to learn about performance, safety, heritage, and what we’re doing in Alabama,” he said. “It’s exciting.”