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 had doubled the plant size with an additional $600 million investment. The Tuscaloosa plant now produces M-class, R-class and GL-class SUVs. Mercedes began production of the C-class in Tuscaloosa County in 2014, which will be the first sedan produced at the site. The addition resulted in $2 billion spent to expand capacity for the C-class and other models.
“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.”
Mercedes’ Tuscaloosa plant produces about 185,000 cars per year. The facility has announced that a new Mercedes-Benz model is set for debut in 2015, totaling five products at the Tuscaloosa plant.
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 Odyssey minivan, The Pilot sport utility vehicle, the Acura MDX luxury sport utility vehicle and the V-6 engines to power them.
The facility’s annual production capacity stands at 340,000 vehicles and engines. In 2013, total production reached 3 million vehicles and engines at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. In 2014, the facility plans to add 50 production jobs and invest $71.8 million.
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: July 21, 2014
Location: Montgomery County (Central Alabama)
Capital Investment: $1.7 billion
Annual Production: 385,000 vehicles and 630,000 engines annually
Plant Size: 3.2 million square feet
Products: Sonata sedan, Elantra sedan, Theta 4-cylinder gasoline injection engines, Nu 4-cylinder engines
Photo of 2011 Sonata courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
Location: Tuscaloosa County
Capital Investment: $4 billion
Annual Production: 174,000 vehicles annually (projected)
Plant Size: More than 4 million square feet-plus
Products: M-class, R-class, GL-class luxury SUV, C-class and new vehicle in 2015
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: 3.7 million square feet
Products: Odyssey minivan; Pilot SUV; Ridgeline pickup; Acura MDX luxury SUV and V6 engines.
Photo of 2011 Ridgeline courtesy of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama