Rows and rows of sparkling white Mercedes-Benz trucks fill the fenced assembly-plant lot at Copeland Industrial Park.

Probably 400 trucks are parked here, an inventory a company spokesman said is a bit higher than desired but reflects the company goal of keeping at least a month's supply on hand to take care of customer requests for various lenghts in body chassis.

"The company has shifted from having the inventory at the vehicle prep centers to a more centralized system at the plant," said Fred Chapman, the firm's public relations representative.

Although sales dragged through much of the fall, Mercedes-Benz of North America reports its truck dealers set a sale record for the fifth year in a row during 1980.

Last year, the company sold 4,051 trucks, an increase of 9.3 percent over the 3,708 sold in 1979, the company sold 2,251 units.

Included in the 1980 sales are 646 trucks assembled in the Hampton plant that opened last June.

A producer of diesel trucks since 1923, Daimler Benz, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz of North America, began marketing trucks in the United States 12 years ago. Since then, sales have increased each year, except in 1976 when its market was down 2 percent.

Bodack feels his company's increased sales can be attributed to the consumer's rising concern over fuel costs. "As fuel prices increase, there is a corresponding interest in diesel-powered trucks," he said.

Mercedes has increased the price tag on 1981 models by an average of 8.6 percent. "Some of the truck prices have stayed the same, some have been raised slightly, and the price of one Mercedes truck has even been cut," Chapman said.

The Hampton plant will see two more truck styles phased in this year, first the small L1013 and then the L1113.

The first is the smallest of all Mercedes trucks, with a gross vehicle weight of 22,000 pounds and a 130-horsepower engine.

"It's the truck for people who had a big pickup but weren't getting enough fuel economy out of it."

The number of assembly workers at the Hampton site will remain basically around 104 until the company institutes its second shift. Hiring additional workers will depend on how the truck market fares in the near future.

Recently, Mercedes introduced the newest model in the company's line, a diesel-powered, single-axle tractor designed to move semi-trailers around urban areas.

Called the LS1418, the model initially will be assembled in Brazil but will reach the Hampton Plant assembly line in 1982.

"We have no long-range projections for how many will be sold," Chapman said. "The model won't be offered for sale in the U.S. until April."