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 Southern Auto Corridor News
February 2013
 
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Mexico vs. the Southern Automotive Corridor
Since the end of the recession, Mexico has seen more than $11 billion invested in its automotive industry. In comparison, investment made by automakers and suppliers in the Southern Automotive Corridor is right at $7.5 billion. The SAC has missed out on plants now being built by Audi, Nissan, Daimler and Honda. Others, such as Toyota, Hyundai and Mitsubishi, are planning for new production in Mexico and rumors are flying that BMW is considering a plant there. Since the recession ended there have been no new major automotive assembly plants announced in the Southern Auto Corridor. The advantages Mexico has over the South include free-trade agreements with 44 nations while the U.S. has 19. Mexican factory labor wages are about 10 percent less than that in the South. 
 
AP reports Nissan threatened to close Mississippi plant if organized
An article published in February from the Associated Press and published by The Mississippi Press stated that pro-union workers claimed that Nissan officials threatened to close the Canton, Miss., plant if the facility is organized by the UAW. Nissan officials, according to the report, denied they made threats to close the facility. Federal law prohibits employers from telling employees that a facility will be closed if organized by a union. The UAW has focused on organizing the Nissan plant in the past year and has appealed to the Japanese automaker to allow it to officially present its case to the 5,200 employees that are housed at the Canton, Miss., plant. Nissan has refused the request.  
 
Toyota gives away 29 Mississippi-built Corollas to organizations in the state
In February 2013, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi donated 29 Corollas to organizations in Northeast Mississippi. Two community colleges received seven vehicles each and emergency management agencies in the region also received the cars. The value of the vehicles topped $400,000. 
 
Mercedes-Benz to build new SUV at Alabama plant
Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG, told the German automaker's shareholders in Stuttgart recently that a fifth model will be built at its plant in Vance, Ala. The unnamed vehicle will be an "all-terrain" SUV. Mercedes is bringing C-Class production to the plant in 2014 and the new SUV is expected to be available in 2015. 

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear makes secret trip to Germany
In February, Gov. Steve Beshear made a secret recruiting trip to Germany and speculation has it that the trip centered on an automotive project. In recent months, there have been several announcements made by German parts suppliers in Kentucky. The only Germany-based assembly plants in the Southern Auto Corridor are BMW in South Carolina, Volkswagen in Tennessee and Mercedes-Benz in Alabama.  
 
GM to build Sting Ray engines in Kentucky
For 32 years, GM has built its Corvette model exclusively at a little plant in Bowling Green, Ky. Soon, the Detroit automaker will build engines for the redesigned high-performance sports car at the Bowling Green facility. GM announced it is relocating its Performance Build Center from Michigan to Bowling Green. The deal will create 20 new jobs. 
 
Supplier expands in Tennessee
U.S. Tsubaki Automotive is investing $1.9 million to expand its plant in Portland, Tenn. The maker of chains for vehicle engines will add 70 workers in the deal. 
 
Another supplier expands in Tennessee
Huf North America, a subsidiary of a German company, is investing $20 million in its plant in Greeneville, Tenn. The deal will create new injection molding and paint processes, and will create 100 new jobs. 
 
Nissan keeps incredible momentum in Tennessee
In recent months, Nissan has expanded its drive train plant in Decherd, Tenn., started its new LEAF all-electric line and its lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna and now it has opened what it calls the "world's most advanced paint plant" in Smyrna. The new 250,000-square-foot paint facility replaces Nissan's previous paint system that had been in service for almost 30 years in Smyrna, Tenn. 
 
Hino laying off workers in West Virginia
Japanese parts supplier and drive train manufacturer Hino Motors Manufacturing USA is laying off temporary workers at its plant in Williamstown, W.Va. The company cited unexpectedly soft sales. Permanent workers at the plant are not affected. 
 
Daimler Trucks announces 1,300 layoffs at it North Carolina plants
Germany's Daimler Trucks announced recently it is laying off 1,300 workers at its plants in Cleveland, Mount Holly and Gastonia, N.C. The plants are not unfamiliar with the layoffs. Throughout the years, the facilities have seen wide swings of layoffs and rehirings, depending on the demand for large trucks. In 2012, Daimler rehired 1,100 workers at its plant in Cleveland, N.C. 
 
German parts supplier picks N.C. for new plant
KSM Castings NC, a manufacturer of metal casting parts for the automotive industry, is investing $45 million in its first U.S. plant in Shelby, N.C. The deal will create 189 jobs.  
 
Kentucky produces more than 1 million vehicles in 2012
Kentucky’s thriving automotive industry enjoyed a banner year in 2012, with annual production reaching more than 1 million vehicles for the first time since 2007, before the national economic downturn. With more than 1,025,000 light vehicles produced, Kentucky ranks fourth in the nation for total light vehicle production, up from fifth in 2011. Kentucky produced more than 477,000 cars (ranking third), and fourth for light trucks with more than 548,000. Additionally, one in every 10 light vehicles produced in the United States during 2012 was made in Kentucky. 

Volkswagen recognized for green power in Chattanooga
VW's Chattanooga plant made EPA's top 20 ranking for green power use. The German automaker recently activated its $25 million solar park located on site, which provides enough energy to power 12 percent of the plant's electricity. It is the largest solar generating facility located at any North American assembly plant. 
 
Grants fund training for 800 Nissan jobs in Tennessee
The Nissan drivetrain plant in Decherd, Tenn., and an associated company, Yates Services, are in line for about $3.8 million in state FastTrack Job Training Assistance grants to fund training for about 850 new jobs at the facility in Franklin County. Nissan, which experienced 10 percent growth in sales in 2012, also has had "significant" growth at the engine assembly plant in Decherd, originally opened in 1997.
 
Denso to boost production in Athens, Tenn.
Japan-based auto supplier Denso announced it will hire more than 130 people and invest more than $50 million at its facility in Athens, Tenn. Denso is bringing production of its gasoline direct injection (GDI) system technology to its facility in Athens. Tooling, staffing, and training preparations will begin in June 2013.
 
Kentucky lands another German firm, 120 jobs for Murray
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced in January that Kemmerich Metal Engineering, a German automotive supplier, will be establishing not just a manufacturing operation in Murray, but the company also plans on making Calloway County the location of its U.S. headquarters. The project brings 120 jobs and a $12.2 million investment to the state.
   
Michelin expanding operations in Anderson County, S.C.
Tire maker Michelin North America will expand its existing rubber production operations in Anderson County in order to keep up with increasing demand for tires of every kind and size. The $200 million investment is expected to generate 100 new jobs. The expansion is expected to be operational in 2014.
 
Nissan may send second hybrid to Smyrna, Tenn.
Nissan’s Smyrna complex could soon be making gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles — and the batteries for them — while also continuing to assemble the all-electric LEAF car and its lithium-ion battery packs. The Japanese automaker won’t confirm reports of specific future products for its Smyrna operations, but the reports — from Japan and the recent Detroit auto show — suggest that at least two hybrid models might be on tap for the Smyrna auto assembly plant, and that the adjacent battery plant could provide the necessary battery packs.
 
VW plant powers up its Tennessee solar park
In January, German automaker Volkswagen flipped the on switch for a new solar park at its Tennessee assembly plant. The 33-acre installation next to the Chattanooga plant has a capacity to produce more than 13 gigawatt hours of electricity per year. That’s the equivalent of the amount of energy used by 1,200 area homes each year, according to Volkswagen. 
 
BIG DEAL: Start-up automaker buying former GM plant in Shreveport, La.; 1,500 jobs announced
In early January, Elio Motors, a start-up three-wheel vehicle automaker from California, announced it will purchase the former General Motors Shreveport plant to assemble an 80 mpg car. The deal is expected to create 1,500 jobs and the company will occupy approximately 1 million square feet of the 3 million-square-foot GM facility that used to make pickup trucks and the long-gone Hummer brand. La. Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a press release, "After the loss of GM, we made a commitment to the people of Northwest Louisiana that we would not only pursue possible alternative uses for the old GM facility, but we would also aggressively pursue new projects in the region that would create new job opportunities." Louisiana has been in this position in the past when V-Vehicle, also a California-based automotive start-up backed by big-time investors, announced its intentions to build a high mpg vehicle near Monroe, La. That deal didn’t pan out. 
 
Nissan moving Murano assembly from Japan to Canton, Miss. 
Another move by foreign automakers to outsource production to the South and Mexico came to light in early January as Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn announced the Japanese automaker is relocating production of the popular Murano model from Japan to its plant in Canton, Miss. Currently, about 90 percent of Muranos made worldwide are assembled at Nissan's Kyushu, Japan facility. Approximately 70 percent of those are exported to the U.S. Other Murano models are made in Russia and China. The move is the third model that Ghosn has moved out of Japanese manufacture. The Murano will be built in Mississippi in the summer of 2014 when a new generation of the small SUV will debut. Japan's Big Three -- Toyota, Nissan and Honda -- are viewing the U.S., and the Southern Automotive Corridor in particular, as an increasingly important and affordable production base for worldwide exports. 
 
Perfection Clutch investing in Missouri
Aftermarket automotive parts supplier Perfection Clutch is locating a distribution facility in Hazelwood, Mo. The $1.3 million deal will create 10 jobs. 
 
BMW marks 20 years in South Carolina
Two decades ago BMW began making luxury vehicles at its plant in Spartanburg County, S.C. It was the first European automaker to call the Southern Automotive Corridor home. When announced, the plant would house 2,000 workers assembling 6,500 units a month. Today, the facility houses about 7,000 workers that produce 25,000 BMW crossover models per month. The automaker exports about 70 percent of its South Carolina-built vehicles. More than $6 billion has been invested by BMW in the facility in 20 years. 
 
Tire cord maker opening another plant in South Carolina
Kiswire, a manufacturer of steel cord for the tire market that is huge in South Carolina, is opening a second plant in Newberry County, S.C. The $15 million deal will create 30 jobs. 
 
Nissan Leaf rolls off Tennessee plant line for first time
Produced exclusively in Japan from inception, the all-electric LEAF model rolled off the line at Nissan's massive Smyrna, Tenn., manufacturing complex around Christmas. The Southern Auto Corridor-built LEAF features faster charging and an extended driving range. 
 
Korean auto parts maker adding more jobs in East Tennessee
SL Tennessee is expanding again in Clinton, Tenn. The parts manufacturer, which now employs 850 at the Clinton/I-75 Industrial Park, is leasing another building in the area. 
 
Akebono expands in Clarksville, Tenn. 
Japanese brake maker Akebono announced an $82 million expansion of its plant in Clarksville, Tenn. Akebono has been particularly active in the Southern Auto Corridor (especially in Kentucky) as well. The Clarksville deal will create 94 new jobs. 
 
Auto supplier growing in the Volunteer State
International Automotive Components is expanding its Dayton, Tenn., operations. The Michigan-based automotive interiors supplier is investing over $7 million in the project that will create 50 new manufacturing jobs. 
 

  
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