Since Hyundai set up its first American production plant in Montgomery, AL in 2002, the city has seen a major shift towards the manufacturing industry that now fuels its economy.
Increased demand for the Korean automaker’s two most popular models in the U.S., the Elantra and Sonata, prompted the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant to turn to 24/7 production in 2012, increasing the workforce at the plant to 3,000 employees. The plant has not been the only spur to economic growth, however.
Auto suppliers began to pop up across the region soon after Hyundai set up shop there, supplying the plant with auto parts and the region with more jobs. In fact, auto suppliers in the area now employ more workers than the Hyundai plant itself does.
Just this year, DAS North America expanded its facilities to include a new plant to manufacture seat rails for the Hyundai plant, so that they don’t have to ship the parts all the way from Korea. The expansion also included 200 new jobs.
Hyundai has certainly helped the Montgomery area transition to a new wave of manufacturing, but the company has also been hard at work improving its vehicle technology to accommodate new trends in the auto industry.
Car manufacturing has come a long way over the past century. Prior to the 1920s, in fact, gas gauges were nonexistent, forcing drivers to estimate the amount of fuel left in their tanks. We may not have to be concerned about guessing how much fuel we have left to run on these days, but we do have to worry about the cost of fuel and how it is affecting the environment.
Since 2000, Hyundai has been developing its own fuel cell technology in an effort to make greener vehicles. It recently released the 2015 Tucson SUV fuel-cell in the U.S., though only about 1,000 vehicles will be produced and sold here in the first few years. Higher demand for electric vehicles like the Tucson fuel-cell could change that, but currently there are very few hydrogen fuel cell stations around that are necessary to refuel these cars.
As more drivers begin to turn to alternative-fuel vehicles, there just might be a higher demand for hydrogen fuel-cell cars in the near future, adding the potential for a whole new layer of manufacturing to the Montgomery Hyundai plant. In a place where state jobs once fueled the economy, auto manufacturing could very well be the way of the future.
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