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Fact: The Mercedes-Benz R-Class Is Still in Production

Here’s something you probably didn’t realize: The Mercedes-Benz R-Class, noted vehicle that I consider a minivan but you all insisted is actually some sort of SUV-wagon hybrid, is currently still in production. Yes, right now. Yes, Mercedes-Benz is making brand-new R-Class models. No, you cannot purchase one.

The basic gist of this story is this: The R-Class is still in production, but only for the Chinese market. And they build it in Indiana. The whole story is a little more interesting.

Here’s what happened. Back in the mid-2000s, Mercedes-Benz decided to create a minivan (I mean a "Grand Sports Tourer"), and they debuted the R-Class globally for the 2006 model year. They sold a long-wheelbase version in North America, and they sold short- and long-wheelbase versions in Europe and Asia. Sensing the U.S. would probably be the largest market for the R-Class, they built it in Alabama alongside the M-Class and the then-upcoming GL-Class. Seems simple enough.

Well, we all know what happened next: The R-Class was a big failure, and nobody wanted it, so they decided to make an AMG version.

No, I’m just kidding. But, indeed, the R-Class didn’t do very well here in North America, and it didn’t really do very well in Europe, either. They facelifted it for the 2011 model year, which initially had a pretty positive impact on sales — but it wasn’t enough to keep it going, and Mercedes-Benz killed the R-Class in North America and in Europe after 2012. By this time, the GL-Class had taken off considerably, so it didn’t make much sense to keep the R-Class around anyway.

Except …

As it turned out, the Chinese market — which places an emphasis on large vehicles that can be driven by chauffeurs — appreciated the R-Class to the point where Mercedes-Benz decided to keep selling it there. But capacity was short at Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama plant, causing the automaker to look for another solution beginning in 2014. That solution was … AM General.

Yes, that’s right: AM General, manufacturer of the fabled Humvee, took over R-Class production after the minivan thing was cancelled in the United States. And since the R-Class is still a success in China, they’re still manufacturing it there. I didn’t believe this, at first, but my friend Drew proved to me that it was true: German company Mercedes-Benz is using a factory in Indiana to produce a luxury minivan for China that was a flop in North America. Globalization on the highest level.

I’m not sure how much longer this production run is planned, but it doesn’t appear Mercedes-Benz has lined up a successor to the R-Class — meaning it likely won’t continue after the current model is cancelled. Nonetheless, yes, the R-Class is still on sale as a brand-new car — more than a decade after it came out in the United States. You just can’t buy one. Even though it’s built here. Find a Mercedes-Benz R-Class for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. About the mainland Chinese market, the enthusiasm for “chauffeur-friendly” cars borders on ridiculous – nowhere else in the world can you find locally-assembled long-wheelbase variants of the A4, A6, 3-series, 5-series, and E-class. Even the VW Tiguan recently launched a long-wheelbase variant in China!

  2. I’m not sure on this, but I believe the AM General plant also builds the VPG MV-1, that odd taxi/handicap van. It’s pretty funny how these two oddball cars ended up together.

  3. I’m with you Doug, It’s a minivan.  Not to mention that “some sort of SUV-wagon hybrid” is like the chicken and the egg.  The minivan was “some sort of SUV-wagon hybrid” before that the Crossover was a thing.

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a multitude of magazine publications and websites, including here at Autotrader — where he launched the Oversteer enthusiast blog — along with Jalopnik, GQ, and The Week. His YouTube channel has hundreds of published videos and has racked up hundreds of millions of views. Today, Doug lives in San Diego, California, with his 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 NAS, 2005 Ford GT, and 2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon.

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