Alabama 2015 auto production tops 1 million, setting record

Alabama 2015 auto production tops 1 million, setting record
Honda workers at the factory in Lincoln produce the Pilot SUV. (contributed)

Alabama’s three global automakers combined to produce more than 1 million vehicles in 2015, the first time the state’s annual output has reached that big-league milestone.

Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai produced a total of at least 1,033,095 vehicles last year, according to the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, a key player in industry growth in the state. The total is up from 2014, when the trio’s production tally fell just shy of 995,000.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks at the celebration for the new Mercedes GLE Coupe at the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa County last April. (Jamie Martin/Governor's Office)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks at the celebration for the new Mercedes GLE Coupe at the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa County last April. (Jamie Martin/Governor’s Office)

“Since Mercedes invested in Alabama over 20 years ago, Alabama has been successful at producing automobiles, with 2015 being our best year yet,” Gov. Robert Bentley said. “Automotive manufacturing is an important industry in Alabama, and creates thousands of jobs for Alabamians. I am confident that 2016 will be an even better year as automobile manufacturers proudly produce vehicles ‘Made in Alabama’ and sell them around the world.”

Crossing the 1 million mark in annual production is another reminder that Alabama has become a force in the auto industry.

“It’s a great achievement on the part of the automakers, their suppliers and the Alabama workers who build quality products throughout the year,” EDPA Executive Vice President Steve Sewell said.

Expanding production

Thanks to steady gains, Alabama is the fifth largest auto producing state, and employment in the sector is approaching 40,000. Vehicles and parts have become the state’s top export, reaching $6.6 billion in 2014. New auto-related investment during the past four years tops $5.5 billion.

“Alabama’s auto industry has been growing robustly, with significant new investment flowing into the state, creating jobs and expanding the sector’s footprint,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “It’s impressive that Alabama’s three assembly operations have crossed this important production milestone in a relatively short time, and it’s encouraging that the stage is set for continued growth in the industry.”

Alabama officials joined Hyundai leaders at the unveiling of the redesigned Elantra at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. (contributed)
Alabama officials joined Hyundai leaders at the unveiling of the redesigned Elantra at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. (contributed)

According to EDPA, Hyundai’s Montgomery plant produced 384,519 vehicles in 2015, while the total at Honda’s facility in Lincoln was 349,386. The figure at Mercedes’ Vance factory was at least 300,000. (Mercedes will announce an exact figure later this year.)

“The past year was a very productive and exciting time at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama as we brought online a technologically advanced automated engine assembly operation and successfully introduced the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle to customers,” said Ted Pratt, spokesman for Honda’s Alabama operation.

Alabama officials joined Hyundai leaders at the unveiling of the redesigned Elantra at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2015.

The rising production totals for Alabama automakers have fueled growth in the supply chain, with new suppliers such as SMP coming to the state. Meanwhile, parts makers already in the state, including Birmingham’s Kamtek, have launched expansions.

Alabama’s automakers continue to add to their production lineups. This week, Hyundai announced plans to add the Santa Fe Sport SUV to the assembly line in Montgomery, joining the company’s Sonata and Elantra sedans. Later this year, Honda Alabama will resume production of the Ridgeline pickup as a new vehicle.

Those additions will push to 11 the number of models produced in Alabama.

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