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Daimler says to significantly hike U.S. car production

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Daimler will "significantly" raise production capacity at its plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama from a current level of around 185,000 cars, as it adds new models including its new C-Class sedan and a new sports utility vehicle.

Daimler's push to expand vehicle production comes after car sales in the United States recovered to levels seen before the 2007 financial crisis and after rival BMW said it would raise U.S. production by 50 percent to 450,000 cars by 2016.

Daimler on Wednesday said it had started production of the next generation C-Class in the United States.

A spokesman for the Stuttgart-based maker of Mercedes-Benz cars declined to give a figure or a timeline for the U.S. factory's planned production increase, but said it will be "significantly above our previous capacity of SUV production".

In 2013, Tuscaloosa made 185,000 cars.

Daimler is raising manufacturing capability with the introduction of its C-Class as part of a global rollout of its best-selling model, which is already being produced in South Africa and Germany.

The plant in Alabama currently makes sports utility models including the M-Class and the GL-Class. In 2015, Tuscaloosa will also start making the Concept SUV Coupe, Daimler said.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Christoph Steitz)

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