Tennessee Still No. 1, AL and KY Coming Up Fast
In BF’s Automotive Manufacturing Strength Ranking

Business Facilities has released it’s annual state Automotive Manufacturing Strength ranking. For an unprecedented fourth consecutive year, Tennessee has defended its automotive crown as the top-ranked state in this flagship category, holding off a strong challenge from a surging Alabama and an expanding automotive sector in Kentucky.

The Volunteer State is home to Nissan, Volkswagen and General Motors production hubs. “With VW intent on selling at least 1 million vehicles in the North American market, its new Chattanooga plant is ramping up to full production,” said BF Editor in Chief Jack Rogers. “Renewed commitments from GM, Nissan’s electric-car line scaling up in Smyrna and a growing supplier network have kept Tennessee in a commanding position in our automotive strength evaluation.”

Rogers said Alabama, which leapt into second place in the Automotive Manufacturing Strength ranking from last year’s no. 7 finish, is coming on strong as a rising automotive powerhouse. Alabama’s surge in BF‘s annual automotive sweepstakes has been fueled by its expanding production on behalf of industry giants from three nations: Germany’s Mercedes-Benz, Japan’s Honda and South Korea’s Hyundai.

“Mercedes-Benz’s long-term commitment to Alabama was followed by a parade of auto giants who have vaulted the state into the top tier in U.S. automotive production, with 880,000 vehicles produced in 2012,” Rogers said. “The state has laid out the welcome mat for foreign investment and is working proactively to make sure a skilled workforce is readily available by offering on-site training.”

He added, “We expect Alabama to be a leading player in the U.S. automotive industry for years to come.”

In BF‘s exclusive March/April 2013 Governor’s Report interview, AL Gov. Robert Bentley said the 1993 decision by Mercedes-Benz to locate its North American manufacturing hub in Tuscaloosa opened the door for other industrial giants to come to Alabama, establishing the state as a front-runner in foreign direct investments and jump-starting a torrent of exports from Alabama to the world.

“Had Mercedes not come to Alabama in 1993, we probably would not have had all these great international companies. When you talk to Mercedes, they will tell you that their best manufacturing plant in the world is at Tuscaloosa,” Gov. Bentley told BF. “When you see companies like Mercedes adding new lines [the company will produce its fifth new model in Tuscaloosa this year], when you see Hyundai put a third shift in, adding 800 new jobs, and when you see the level of automation at these plants, you know that we’re producing high-quality vehicles here in Alabama.”

Rounding out the top five in the magazine’s automotive strength category are Kentucky, which in addition to being a long-time home to Toyota successfully renewed a century-old partnership with Ford in Louisville [a BF Economic Development Deal of the Year Gold Award winner]; Indiana (facilities include GM, Subaru, Honda and Toyota) and a resurgent Ohio (Chrysler, Ford, Honda). Business Facilities’ top automotive ranking places a heavy emphasis on growth potential as well as current production statistics and industry trends.

“The seismic impact of the recovery in U.S. automotive production lifted several states during the past year, pushing some of them to rise to new heights in our annual Automotive Manufacturing Strength ranking,” Rogers noted.

The list of recently announced automotive OEM expansions keeps growing. Here’s a sampling: BMW added 300 jobs at its Spartanburg, SC plant (X4); Chrysler added more than 1,000 workers to its transmission lines in Tipton, IN, Kokomo, IN and Perrysberg, OH; Hyundai increased production of Elantra and Sonata models at its Montgomery, AL facility, adding 877 jobs; Subaru expanded its Impreza line in Lafayette, IN, adding 900 workers; Toyota upped Lexus production at its largest North American plant in Georgetown, KY, creating 750 jobs; Ford added 450 workers to its engine plant in Cleveland, OH; and Mercedes increased the workforce at its Vance, AL facility by 500.

In this year’s state rankings, BF has created a second automotive category to give the states with the most robust automotive supplier networks their own place in our annual spotlight. Michigan, home to more than 100,000 supplier jobs, is the top-ranked state in the new Auto Parts Supplier Leaders category, followed by Ohio (89,423) and Indiana (79,651) at no. 2 and no. 3, respectively.

The complete results of Business Facilities’ 9th Annual Rankings Report will be posted on the BF website on August 5, 2013. The results also will be featured in the cover story of BF’s July/August 2013 issue.