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Summer 2012

For real-time news on business, politics and economic development in the South, go to For even more economic development news in the South, including all project announcements, go to For more information on the automotive industry in the South, including all project announcements, go to EDITOR'S NOTE: On August 31, 2012, The Randle Report launched


Third automotive plant shifts can only go so far

Since the recession and the natural disasters in Asia that disrupted supply chains, there have been no new assembly plants announced in the South, although Mexico has seen three. Japan's three largest automakers -- Toyota, Honda and Nissan -- are all localizing production for the U.S. market to hedge against the high value of the yen as well as disruptions in the supply lines. To do this without the aid of new facilities, many automakers, including GM, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and BMW in the South, have announced something they have rarely done; add a third shift to existing plants.

Adding a third shift is a sign that automakers are concentrating on increased production for now by improving efficiencies and worker productivity. And exports are at the forefront. For example, Honda expects to export 200,000 units from its North American plants in 2013, up from 55,000 in 2011. In short, many foreign automakers are now outsourcing production to the Southern Auto Corridor and Mexico with a special emphasis on exporting. By and large, adding third shifts at existing plants is a temporary move. When the U.S. market returns to pre-recession sales levels of 16 million units – about 14 to 15 million U.S. sales are expected this year -- look for automakers to begin sniffing around the Southern Auto Corridor for new facilities.


Toyota breaks ground on Huntsville, Ala., engine plant expansion

Japanese automaker Toyota broke ground in September on the 300,000-square-foot expansion of its V6 engine plant in Huntsville, Ala. The $80 million project will bring total investment to more than $700 million for Toyota in Huntsville. The deal will create 125 jobs, bringing Toyota's total to 1,150 in Huntsville.

Sanoh America growing fast in Scottsboro, Ala.

Sanoh America will expand for the sixth time since its beginning as Hisan in July 2000, which manufactured tubes for brakes and fuel lines. With this latest announcement, Sanoh will occupy nearly 130,000 square feet and will employ almost 200 people in Scottsboro Industrial Park.

German auto supplier Boysen to build near Vance, Ala.

German automotive supplier Boysen USA said it will build a $34 million plant near Vance to supply exhaust systems for Mercedes-Benz's new C-Class. The company will build a 120,000-square-foot plant on 22 acres north of the MBUSI plant, bringing about 99 jobs to Tuscaloosa County.

Honda makes headlines in Alabama

Honda Manufacturing is expanding and bringing in 300 new jobs to its east Alabama plant. Honda will also add a new luxury model vehicle to the Lincoln, Ala., assembly line -- the Acura MDX. The Ridgeline pickup was transferred to Line 1 at Honda's Alabama auto factory this summer. Honda announced another $115 million expansion at the plant earlier in the summer quarter.

Japan-based TASUS invests $19 million in Florence, Ala.

Japan-based TASUS Corporation, an automotive plastic component firm, began construction on a $19 million, 104,000-square-foot injection molding manufacturing facility in Florence, Ala. The deal will create 135 new jobs. 

Hanil USA announces Tallassee, Ala., expansion

Hanil USA, a subsidiary of TI Automotive, will expand its facility, a move that will add 60 new jobs to the existing Tallassee, Ala., location. It will be the third expansion for the company since coming to Tallassee Corporate Park in 2005.

Automotive supplier expanding in Cullman County, Ala.

Zero RPM announced in the summer it plans to expand its operations in Cullman County, Ala. The supplier produces idle mitigation systems for vehicles. The deal will result in 50 new jobs.

Supplier adding jobs in Jasper, Ala.

With the future I-22 almost completed from Memphis to Birmingham, businesses are beginning to take notice. Japan-based AMTEX, a tier-one supplier, announced in the summer it is expanding its operations in Jasper. The company, which produces carpet and trim components, is investing $27 million in a new facility in the Bevill Industrial Park. The deal will create 110 jobs.

Mercedes-Benz shipping kits from Alabama plant to Asia

Why export ready-to-assemble M-Class SUV "kits" instead of fully-assembled M-Class vehicles? Mercedes-Benz executives have the answer. The German automaker is shipping kits through logistics supplier BLG Logistics to Asian markets, where the M-Class vehicles are assembled. By shipping kits instead of fully-assembled SUVs, Mercedes avoids the tariffs associated with vehicle shipments. The expansion of kit exports has added 45 jobs at the Mercedes plant in Vance, Ala.


Trailer manufacturer investing in Paragould, Ark.

Utility Trailer is adding 22,000 square feet of space at its plant in Paragould. The expansion will enable the company to accommodate more customized trailer work. The deal will generate 50 new jobs.


Mando America begins hiring at new rural Georgia facility

Automotive supplier Mando America has begun hiring at its new $200 million plant near Hogansville, Ga., north of Columbus. The new facility will house 200 workers, ramping up to 400 within three years. The company supplies Kia, Hyundai and other automakers.

Sewon America expands again in LaGrange

The largest parts supplier to the Kia plant in West Point, Ga., is expanding again. Sewon America announced in late August it will add 150 jobs and invest $10 million at its LaGrange facility. The Korean supplier provides Kia with stamping for a variety of parts. This expansion will grow Sewon's employment to 850 workers and a total of $180 million invested in the facility.

Auto parts supplier building new plant in Cartersville, Ga.

Voestalpine Metal Forming, an Austrian automotive parts supplier, announced in August it will build a new $62 million facility in Bartow County, Ga., near Cartersville. The company makes metal parts for a variety of OEMs. The deal will create 220 jobs.

Porsche Cars North America moving ahead with new headquarters near Atlanta airport

Porsche recently paid $34.3 million for 56.2 acres on which it plans to build its U.S. headquarters at Jacoby Development Inc.'s Aerotropolis. Roughly half of the land -- 26 acres -- will be used for the $100 million headquarters project, a showcase for the brand. The Porsche headquarters will help anchor Aerotropolis, the nearly 130-acre mixed-used redevelopment of the former Ford Motor Co. assembly plant in Hapeville.

Kia supplier Powertech America to add 143 workers, third shift by January

A major supplier for the Kia auto assembly plant in West Point is moving toward a January expansion that will add a third shift and 143 employees. Powertech America makes automatic transmissions.


Nissan's Mississippi plant finally gets some footing

When Mississippi landed its first automotive assembly plant more than 10 years ago, it wasn't a secret that Nissan had trouble finding qualified workers for the facility. In fact, I talked to Jimmy Heidel, the former state-level economic development director in Mississippi about the situation and he said to me, "Mike, what did they expect? We have very few people in Mississippi who have ever operated robots." Well, that was then and this is now.

Nissan's Canton, Miss., plant is really gaining some footing in the Southern Auto Corridor as the Japanese automaker has positioned the facility as a hub for its domestic production of large vehicles. Three new models will roll off the lines at Canton as Nissan moves Frontier pickup and Xterra SUV assembly from its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., to Mississippi. The plant already produces the Titan pickup, Armada SUV and the NV commercial van in Canton. As a result of the new lines, employment at Nissan's Mississippi plant is expected to top 5,000 at the end of the year. Nissan currently employs about 6,000 in Smyrna.

GreenTech unveils new Mississippi plant and car line

A visit from former President Bill Clinton marked the groundbreaking of GreenTech Automotive's plant in Horn Lake, Miss. A company spokesman said they hope to make 10,000 MyCars within the next two years. Neighborhood electric vehicles, a cross between golf carts and full-sized vehicles, are limited to streets with speed limits of 35 mph and below in the U.S. GreenTech's will cost $18,000, and the top-of-the-line model is supposed to travel up to 95 miles on a single charge. The company plans to sell a year's output to a Danish firm and will also sell some to Domino's Pizza franchisees and other U.S. vehicle fleet operators. 


New models set for Missouri GM plant

In September, General Motors announced its Wentzville, Mo., assembly plant will build an all-new GMC Canyon pickup. The Detroit automaker is investing $380 million in its Missouri facility that will also assemble the all-new Colorado pickup. GM ended production of those two models at its plant in Shreveport, La., which is closing.

Missouri auto parts supplier adding 200 jobs

Henniges Automotive, a supplier to GM and Nissan, announced it is expanding its facility in New Haven, Mo. The Farmington Hills, Michigan-based company produces sealing components. The $5 million deal will add 200 jobs to the 260 that are housed at the facility.

LMV Automotive Systems Breaks Ground On $42 Million Facility in Liberty

LMV Automotive Systems began construction on a $42 million, 212,000-square-foot manufacturing complex in Liberty, Mo., where it will employ more than 150 workers. The facility will manufacture and deliver modular assemblies primarily for the nearby Ford plant.


Drive Automotive expanding in Upstate

Drive Automotive is expanding its body panel plant in Greenville County, S.C. The $50 million deal will create 60 new jobs.

Parts company investing $12M, adding 119 jobs in Upstate

South Carolina Plastics, a maker of plastic automotive components, recently announced it is expanding in Greenville County. The $12 million deal will create 119 new jobs.

Cargo van manufacturer lands in North Charleston, S.C.

Morgan Olsan, a maker of walk-in van bodies, announced recently it will establish a facility in North Charleston, S.C. The $1 million investment will generate 119 jobs.


No announcement, but Volkswagen is preparing for a "big kahuna" expansion

In September, workers began installing the first of 33,600 panels that will make up the 65-acre solar farm VW will use to help power its plant in Tennessee.As of this writing, Volkswagen has not announced a major expansion of its plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. However, in late September, Chattanooga officials awarded a contract to Wright Brothers Construction for site work that most likely will be part of a large VW expansion. There are rumors that VW will build a new facility to mirror its current plant that assembles the Passat sedan model. The new facility is expected to build an SUV model. The German automaker is already in the midst of an expansion of the Chattanooga facility that will bring its workforce to about 3,500 to meet demand for the Passat.No announcement yet, but Volkswagen is preparing for a

Vehicle assembly returns to GM Tennessee plant

For the first time in three years, GM is again assembling vehicles at its Spring Hill, Tenn., facility. The first Chevy Equinox model rolled off the line on September 4. The plant was idled in November 2009, but now over 1,800 workers are producing the Equinox at the former Saturn facility. In addition, manufacture of the new Ecotec engine has started in Spring Hill.

TPR Federal-Mogul Tenn., to create 72 jobs in Lawrenceburg

TPR Federal-Mogul Tennessee, Inc. will locate a manufacturing plant in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., creating 72 auto supply industry jobs. The plant will make cylinder liners for aluminum block engines. 


GM begins hiring binge at IT center Austin

General Motors announced in September that it will hire 500 information-technology workers to staff a new center in Austin, Texas --a step in GM's plan to build its own global IT infrastructure. Currently, 90 percent of the company's IT work is outsourced. GM wants 90 percent of its IT work done internally within five years, which would result in the hiring of thousands of employees. The Austin location is the first of what likely will be four "innovation centers," GM said in a statement. It is hiring software developers, business analysts and other IT workers.


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