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In its rush to beat crippling German labour rates, Mercedes has just begun work on a new plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It will be the company's second assembly facility outside Germany; the only other one is in South Africa. By 1997, Tuscaloosa will assemble a new sporty four-wheel-drive vehicle for the massively popular leisure truck market. In nearby South Carolina, BMW begins assembling the 3-series this autumn, with a pounds 17,000 roadster planned for next year.