Alabama could become No. 2 auto producer in U.S.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Automotive manufacturing has put Alabama on the map.

In 2018, companies in the automotive manufacturing sector announced plans to invest nearly $3.3 billion in Alabama projects, creating around 5,500 jobs.

Twenty-two years ago, not a single car was made in Alabama. Today, between Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai, 1 million cars are produced in Alabama a year, and those cars are not just on Alabama’s roads, they’re on the roads of other countries.  

In 1993, Mercedes-Benz set its sights on Vance. That investment got the ball rolling for auto manufacturing in the state.

CBS 42 got a chance to go inside the Hyundai plant in Montgomery to see the products made in Alabama.

“I install the bumper to installing the seats to installing the trim and every day it’s a different thing,” Symeon Stovall said.

Stovall has worked at Hyundai for 13 years and has come up through the ranks.

“It’s not only been a safe environment here but a fun place to work as well. you’re working at a place doing something that you like to do and you’re also having a good time doing it,” he said.

Alabama’s workforce has shifted over the years as a result of the different automakers coming to the state, and for many of the people at Hyundai and the other auto plants, it was their first time building a car.

“The team members had not been in automotive facility before, but they’ve been in other jobs, basically we get to train them on how to build a vehicle,” said Robert Burns, vice president at Hyundai. 

About 50,000 people are employed in Alabama’s automotive industry. Burns said this means billions of dollars for the state.

“In 2014, we did our own economic impact survey and the plant has a $4.8 billion economic impact on the state of Alabama,” Burns said.  

Construction has already started at the Toyota-Mazda plant in Huntsville, which will employ up to 4,000 workers once it opens in 2021.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said all this growth this will only add to the state’s global footprint.

“We are actually producing vehicles that are being sold in 89 countries, so vehicles that are being made in Alabama are found in 89 countries across the globe,” Canfield said.

However, many people criticize the state when it comes to making deals, saying it gives away too much in incentives. Canfield rejects that notion.

“I say if you look at a 60 billion dollar annual impact from the automotive industry, I would say that argument really doesn’t hold water,” he said.

Canfield said the smart approach is why Alabamians are really benefiting from the auto industry.

“Never before have Alabamians been earning on average more than they do today and a large part of that success is the auto industry,” Canfield.

As early as 2022, Alabama could become the No. 2 auto-producing state in the country.

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