An illustrious lineup of international carmakers – Mercedes ... Honda ... Hyundai ... Toyota – gives instant credibility to Alabama’s rapid emergence as one of the nation’s major automotive manufacturing centers.
In 1993, not a single automobile was made in Alabama. Then, Mercedes selected Alabama to build its first passenger vehicle factory outside Germany. The $400 million plant in Tuscaloosa County produced only one model when it began production in 1997 – the M-Class SUV.
By 2000, Mercedes doubled the plant size with an additional $600 million investment. Since then, two more models have been added and yet another – the C-Class – will begin production in 2014, adding 1,000 new jobs.
In 2011, fresh on the heels of a $290 million body shop expansion, Mercedes announced it would invest another $2 billion in three models of vehicles, expanding production by more than 40,000 a year.
“Tuscaloosa was the first production location of Mercedes-Benz cars ever outside of Germany, and today it is among our best,” said Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG. “As our pioneering plant, it is also the blueprint for our new operations in emerging markets.”
The $2 billion investment will redesign the flagship M-Class SUV and the GL-Class, along with the roll-out of the C-Class, bringing total investment to $4 billion since opening in 1997.
In 1999, Honda chose the east Alabama town of Lincoln to build a new automotive and engine operation that today employs more than 4,000 associates. The $2 billion, 3.5 million-square-foot facility is Honda’s sole production source of the Odyssey minvan, the Pilot sport utility vehicle, the innovative Ridgeline pickup, the Acura MDX luxury port utility vehicle and the V-6 engines to power them. Since 2011, Honda has invested more than $450 million to improve production efficiency and increase annual capacity to 340,000 vehicles and engines.
Korean automaker Hyundai in 2001 announced plans to employ 3,000 at a $1.7 billion plant near Alabama’s capital city of Montgomery. Today the facility makes the Sonata and Elantra sedans; 60 percent of Hyundai sales in the U.S. market.
During 2012, Hyundai Motor America had a record year selling 703,007 vehicles, a 9 percent increase from 2011. The game-changing Sonata led the way with more than 230,000 units sold. These results show how well consumers have responded to Hyundai’s high-tech 4-cylinder lineup, dynamic new design and the mid-size segment’s first five-star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test result.
The Elantra, delivering 38 miles per gallon, continued to dominate the compact segment with sales exceeding 202,000 units during 2012.
In March 2012, Montgomery’s Hyundai facility began producing Theta 4-cylinder gasoline-injection engines and Nu 4-cylinder engines, supplying the nearby Hyundai subsidiary, KIA, just across the state line in West Point, Ga.
The Montgomery plant continues to run a three-shift, 24-hour-a-day operating pattern to meet consumer demand for both the Sonata and Elantra sedans and boost manufacturing capacity to more than 388,000 vehicles per year.
Updated: September 17, 2013
Location: Montgomery County (Central Alabama)
Capital Investment: $1.7 billion
Annual Production: (at full production) 388,000 vehicles, 630,000 engines for Hyundai and Kia factory in West Point , Ga.
Plant Size: 3.2 million square feet
Products: Sonata sedan; Elantra sedan; Theta 4-cylinder gasoline injection engines; Nu 4-cylinder engine
Photo of 2011 Sonata courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
Location: Tuscaloosa County
Capital Investment: $4 billion
Annual Production: 125,000 vehicles (2010)
Plant Size: More than 4 million square feet-plus
Products: M-Class SUV, R-Class Grand Sports Tourer, GL-Class luxury SUV, C-Class sport/sedan (2014)
Photo courtesy of Mercedes Benz U.S. International (2011 M-Class)
Location: Talladega County
Capital Investment: $2 billion
Annual production: 340,000 vehicles and V6 engines
Plant Size: 3.5 million square feet
Products: Odyssey minivan; Pilot SUV; Ridgeline pickup; Acura MDX luxury SUV (2013) and V6 engines.
Additional Investment:$390 million (under way)
Photo of 2011 Ridgeline courtesy of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama