Alabama has become a major hub of automotive manufacturing in the United States. The violent storms that have ravaged the Southeast have affected production at Mercedes and Toyota but largely spared Hyundai and Honda. Kia has facilities just over the Alabama line in West Point, Georgia.
According to Automotive News, On Wednesday, a mile-wide tornado destroyed parts of Tuscaloosa, Ala., damaging the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International auto-assembly plant just north of the city. That plant builds the GL, M, and R class vehicles.
Automotive News says the same storm cell of multiple tornadoes wreaked havoc along a 300-mile stretch, taking out power to an unknown number of auto parts manufacturers and other businesses as far north as Virginia. A Mercedes plant spokeswoman was quoted in the Tuscaloosa News earlier today saying that Mercedes had halted operations because suppliers were unable to deliver parts due to the storms. In some areas, highway exit ramps were damaged and closed. The plant is expected to be closed Friday.
According to the Mercedes-Benz media website, the facility (called MBUSI) is responsible for more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region, and has an annual economic impact of more than 1.5 billion. In addition, MBUSI has become the state’s largest exporter, with more than $1 billion exported each year to countries throughout the world. MBUSI’s economic impact is expected to increase when the plant is producing at full capacity.
The same weather ripped down utility lines as far north as Huntsville, Ala., where Toyota operates a key U.S. engine plant. The plant supplies V-6 and V-8 engines to the Tundra and Tacoma pickups and the Sequoia SUV. The plant employs 768 people.
Even before the most recent storms had hit, production at the Alabama plant had been impacted by the Tsunami because of parts shortages. The company had previously announced production will be suspended in North America on Mondays and Fridays from April 26 until June 3. During the same period, plants will run at 50 percent of their capacity on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Automotive News reported that the automotive business in the region, including Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama Inc., farther south in Montgomery, and Honda of Alabama Manufacturing in Lincoln, Ala., on the eastern side of the state, reported no direct damage from the tornadoes.