VANCE, Ala. (AP) -- With the economy slowing and demand for new vehicles shrinking, Mercedes-Benz is offering buyout packages its nearly 4,000 workers at its Alabama plant for the first time since the factory opened 11 years ago.
A plant spokeswoman said executives hope to know by the end of the year which employees might accept the buyouts, which were announced to workers on Thursday.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class Sport Utility, the R-Class Sport Tourer, and the full-sized GL-Class Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle are built at the Vance plant.
Company officials did not specify how many employees Mercedes hopes will take the buyouts to balance the dip in demand, or what approach the company would take if too few employees opted for the buyouts.
"We're just trying to get an idea of who's interested in accepting the voluntary separation and we'll have a full picture of other adjustments that we need to make in the next couple of weeks," said Felyicia Jerald of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc.
The head of the company's Alabama operations, Bill Taylor, said car sales in general are down because of the weak economy.
"We're responding to the demand in the marketplace by reducing our operations here at Mercedes Vance," said Taylor, president and chief executive of MBUSI.
The company, which began producing vehicles in Tuscaloosa County in 1997, did not provide details on the offer, which would give financial incentives, temporary medical benefits and job-hunting assistance.
Mercedes-Benz has announceed plans to halt production at plants in Germany for a month beginning Dec. 12. The Vance plant's converted to a four-day, 32-hour work week earlier this month.