Toyota-Mazda plant: Alabama bids to become a major auto hub

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama, seeking the fast lane in its bid to become a major auto making hub in the South, has landed a coveted $1.6 billion joint venture plant by Japanese car giants Toyota and Mazda that will eventually employ 4,000 people.

The new plant is to be located in Huntsville, Alabama — already a hub for the region’s budding aerospace industry — and will produce 300,000 vehicles per year, a combination of the Toyota Corolla compact car and a new small crossover SUV from Mazda. Production is targeted to begin by 2021.

“This is indeed a great day in Alabama,” an upbeat Gov. Kay Ivey said Wednesday, flanked by company executives at a news conference in the state capital, Montgomery. Alabama offered an incentive package worth more than $379 million to lure the plant.

Toyota and Mazda will join Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai which currently operate assembly plants in Alabama.

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“This project will really put Alabama at the center of the Southern automotive industry,” Alabama Commerce. Secretary Greg Canfield said. “We can’t wait to see ‘Made in Alabama’ in those vehicles rolling down the assembly line.”

Alabama was already tied with Tennessee as the fifth-largest producer of vehicles in the U.S. last year, according to the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The state produced 9 percent of the cars made in the country, the center said.

Alabama started on the road to becoming an auto manufacturing hub in 1993 when Mercedes chose it as the location for a manufacturing plant after the state offered a then-eye popping $250 million incentive package.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motors, said Wednesday that the new facility is something of a homecoming since the company already has one plant in the state. The new Huntsville plant will be just 14 miles (22 kilometers) from Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama, which produces four-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines for several Toyota models.

“Alabama won a first place trophy today in being selected for that plant,” said Dave Sullivan, product analysis manager at AutoPacific Inc., an automotive research company. Sullivan said the factory itself is a huge asset for the state, but will also cause economic ripples by bringing spinoff jobs to suppliers and service companies in the area.

The decision to pick Alabama is another example of a…

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