The financial outlook for Mercedes-Benz is, well, pending. With the specter of a United Auto Workers (UAW) Union organizing vote casting a long shadow over the Tuscaloosa County Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Mercedes-Benz recently released its Annual Report. It reveals the Stuttgart-based German Company saw consolidated adjusted operating profits fall by some 4% to 19 billion Euros ($20.6 billion) last year.

To stay ahead of changing auto markets Mercedes will deliver 25 new and updated models to showrooms this year, including entry and mid-segment models such as the redesigned E-Class, a new CLE coupe and convertible, and a GLC PHEV.

Looking ahead in the report Mercedes stated, "The Mercedes-Benz Group expects Group revenue in 2024 to remain at the prior-year level. In a market environment that remains challenging,"

The company states it is investing in the most desirable vehicles (especially electric), enhancing the customer experience, developing new tailor-made products to capture further growth potential in China, investing in technology and right sizing its industrial footprint.

The report states that profit margin for this year could be challenging due to geopolitical events. "The economic situation and automotive markets continue to be characterized by an exceptional degree of uncertainty. Unexpected developments may arise in particular from geopolitical events and trade policy. Among them are the current Middle East conflict, the Russia-Ukraine war and other regional crises. Other potential uncertainties include the exacerbation of tensions between China the United States and a further deterioration of political relations between the European Union and China. Further supply chain disruptions and in particular, availability bottlenecks for critical components, remain a significant risk factor. These may impact supply chains and the development of prices for raw materials and energy. In addition, higher-than-expected inflation and interest rates, potential financial market disruptions and an even more pronounced slowdown in economic growth, may have an impact on the world economy and automotive markets."

Here in Alabama, you can add to that, company concerns over unionization efforts and the potential for a protracted strike as the company and state have vowed to fight UAW's $40 million campaign to bring unions to all non-union auto plants in Alabama and across the southeast.

In January, Alabama's Secretary of Commerce Ellen McNair released a statement promising a fight against the ongoing UAW drive in the state's auto manufacturing operations, claiming it “places our state’s main economic driver in the crosshairs.”

Worries in Alabama were exacerbated by7,000 Daimler Truck North America workers voting by 96% last week to authorize a strike if necessary. Their current contract covers parts and assembly workers in North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, and expires on April 26th. Privately state officials have voiced fears that such a strike could motivate the auto industry's non-union workforce in Alabama.

One of the criticisms the UAW has had of Mercedes is their buy back of stock instead of providing that money to employees. In the period from March 4th through the 8th MB Group AG bought back 344,838 shares. That brings to a total of 32,823,938 shares worth almost $2 billion the company has purchased since March of last year.

Auto industry analysts believe the buy back is an effort to counter a Chinese 20% stock  acquisition that left the company vulnerable.

UAW also claims Mercedes executives are getting massive bonuses for the work employees accomplished with little reward. They point to the recent 12,000,000 Euros ($13.9) bonus of CEO Ola Kallenius. That is almost double the remuneration from 2023. According to Reuters, that makes Kallenius one of the top earners among the CEOs of the 40 companies included in Germany's blue-chip index. The company says he will donate a portion of that bonus to charity.

Mercedes-Benz has invested more than $7 billion in its Alabama operations - $1 billion in the last five years - since the mid-90s and employs around 4,500 people in Vance and at its battery facility in Woodstock. The automaker currently builds four vehicles at its Alabama plant: the GLE and GLS sport utility vehicles, the GLE coupé, and the GLS Maybach luxury SUV. It will also build the new, all-electric EQS luxury SUV at the Vance facility.

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