Mercedes-Benz to move U.S. HQ to Atlanta

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Daimler AG’s Mercedes Benz USA unit announced Tuesday it is moving its headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta — the latest shift of the auto industry to the south.

The move from the company’s suburban New York City office in Montvale, N.J., will impact nearly 1,000 jobs and mark the latest in a series of moves by foreign automakers. Earlier this year, Toyota Motor Corp. announced it is moving its U.S. unit corporate headquarters from Torrance, Calif., to Plano, Texas. Nissan Motor Co. in 2005 moved its North American headquarters from Gardena, Calif., to the Nashville, Tenn., area.

MBUSA executives and staff will relocate from Montvale to a temporary facility in Atlanta’s Central Perimeter on an interim basis. The German automaker will construct a new headquarters expected to be completed in early 2017. The company plans to begin moving employees starting in July. The move, which will affect approximately 1,000 employees, will be phased to help minimize any disruption to business operations. Several operational areas will remain in both Montvale and Robbinsville, N.J.

“New Jersey has been a wonderful home to our U.S. operations for our first 50 years, and still is today,” said MBUSA President and CEO Stephen Cannon. “The state has worked tirelessly with us as we evaluated our options. Ultimately, though, it became apparent that to achieve the sustained, profitable growth and efficiencies we require for the decades ahead, our headquarters would have to be located elsewhere. That brought us to Atlanta.”

General Motors Co. is opening a new headquarters office for its struggling Cadillac brand in New York City, moving 30 marketing and sales employees to the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan. The office will have about 120 employees — most new — by later this year.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said the industry keeps moving.

“The unraveling of traditional U.S. auto industry hubs continues. For decades you could count these hubs on one hand, but in the last 10 years automakers have started prioritizing tax laws, cost-of-living expenses and overall quality of life above proximity to established ‘car towns’ like Detroit, Los Angeles and New York. It's creating a much more diverse map of the U.S. auto industry, which is great if you want to work in this field, while keeping your location and climate options open,” Brauer said.

Moving Mercedes-Benz headquarters to the south will move it closer to the company’s assembly plant in Vance, Ala., where it is building SUVs and its new C-Class. Montvale is on the New York state border.

“Atlanta is a premier city which places us closer to our ever-growing Southeast customer base, our port in Brunswick, Georgia, and to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, our Alabama manufacturing facility, which accounts for half of the vehicles we sell here in the U.S. For our employees, Atlanta offers a strong quality of life, terrific schools and wonderful cultural and recreational opportunities,” Cannon said.

The Detroit News first inquired about rumors of a move about six weeks ago, but company officials declined to comment. The Atlanta Business Chronicle first reported the possible move last month. The paper reported the company is looking for at least 150,000 square feet of office space and plans to spend $100 million on the headquarters.

New Jersey is home to other foreign automakers, including Subaru of America, based in Cherry Hill and BMW’s U.S. marketing arm is based in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com