MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Alabama’s three auto assembly plants combined to break a production record in 2013, surpassing the previous year’s total by 4 percent and stoking optimism that output can continue to rise.
The Alabama assembly plants of Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz produced a total vehicle count of at least 915,000 last year, beating the 880,114 figure set in 2012, the previous production record for the state, according to a report by AL.com.
Honda’s Talladega County plant assembled an estimated 333,531 vehicles in 2013, down slightly from 2012 due to the introduction of the Acura MDX to the production line. Hyundai, which added a third shift in September 2012, increased output by 10.6 percent in 2013 to 399,495 vehicles, a plant record. Mercedes, which won’t announce its 2013 production total until later, said it surpassed its 2012 record of 182,000 vehicles.
Bill Taylor, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and former head of the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa County, told AL.com that the auto industry’s growth has created new jobs and opportunities in the state. Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor, in particular, mentioned auto industry growth in the state as a factor in the company’s decision to open a passenger jet production center in Mobile.
“Automotive is advanced manufacturing all day long,” Taylor told AL.com. “Industry leaders recognize that, and to be able to have an advanced manufacturing industry growing and successful, it speaks volumes about the work environment in the state.”
Taylor said adding new models to Alabama assembly lines helps bolster and boost numbers because of the flexibility it provides between models. He said the state’s industry has not yet “hit a ceiling” and continues to create growth opportunities.
With support from the Alabama Department of Commerce and others, automakers continue to expand their operations in the state, with Mercedes beginning to produce the redesigned C-Class sedan this year at its Vance plant. In Huntsville, Toyota’s engine plant is undergoing a $150 million expansion project to boost machining capacity and parts production for V-6 engines.
Meanwhile, suppliers such as Denso are moving into the state while others expanding their presence here, as REHAU is doing in Cullman with the opening of its first technical research center outside of Germany. “Having a high-tech company like REHAU choose Alabama for a U.S.-based research and development facility means new products will be born here in Alabama, which will lead to further growth of industry in our state,” Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said about the project.