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 Southern Auto Corridor News

April 15, 2009


As of April 15, 2009, GM appears headed for bankruptcy and Chrysler might be right behind them. Many worry about parts availability if any of the Big 3 go into receivership. But what about NASCAR? Auto race teams go through probably 100-times more parts for their cars in a month than the average American driver would go through in a year. The quiz is, of the four automakers that put cars in NASCAR fields, name them in order, most to least. The four automakers that field cars in NASCAR include Ford, Chrysler, GM and Toyota.

(Scroll down for answer)

Next Generation Battery Alliance Selects Kentucky

Kentucky has been selected as the site for a proposed $600 million domestic battery manufacturing and headquarters facility. The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries (NAATBatt) has chosen Hardin County's Glendale site as the home for the potential project to develop the advanced manufacturing facility for lithium-ion battery cells. NAATBatt is a non-profit industry consortium of more than 50 corporations, associations and research institutions dedicated to making the U.S. a world leader in the manufacture of advanced lithium-ion or Li-Ion battery cells for transportation applications. The 1,551-acre Glendale site, which is located adjacent to Interstate 65, will be submitted as part of NAATBatt's application to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Georgia's Automotive Industry Update

In November, the latest automotive assembly plant built in the Southern Automotive Corridor will open when Kia produces Job No. 1 in West Point, Ga. In 2006 Ford closed in Hapeville, Ga. and last year GM closed its Doraville assembly plant. The two Atlanta area assembly facilities employed thousands of Atlantans for almost six decades, so the Kia assembly plant represents a rebirth of the automotive industry in the Peach State. Currently, there are 23,000 workers employed in Georgia at 306 automotive-related companies. There are six large automotive parts distribution facilities operating in Georgia, including Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, Robert Bosch and Hella. And there are five automakers with Atlanta serving as their North American headquarters, including Porsche, Lotus, BBS, Hella and Daweoo.

BFGoodrich Closing Alabama Plant

Michelin North American announced in mid-April that is will close the BFGoodrich tire plant in Opelika, Ala. by the end of the year. Some production at the plant will be moved to the company's Tuscaloosa plant and one in Indiana. About 1,000 people are employed at the Opelika BFGoodrich facility.

GM Close to Selling Hummer Brand

Three bidders, two of which are foreign-based, remain in the picture to pay GM up to $200 million in cash for the Hummer SUV brand. The Hummer is built at GM's Shreveport, La. plant. GM is auctioning the Hummer brand and apparently is close to finalizing the sale. None of the potential buyers are automakers, which means the plant in Shreveport will not be part of the deal. What will likely occur is GM will continue to assemble the H3 and H3T (pickup) models for the new owner. GM also produces the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models at the Shreveport auto works. As part of its restructuring plan required by the federal government in exchange for billions in loans and other subsidies, GM had promised a decision on either selling or folding the Hummer brand.

Kentucky Industrial Park Certified as Megasite

In April, McCallum Sweeney Consulting (MSC) certified the Purchase Region Industrial Park (Kentucky) as a "megasite." Achieving certification means the park has at least 1,000 acres available for a single tenant, rail service, and control of the property among other requirements including geotechnical, environmental and zoning issues. The Purchase site is the first site to contract with MSC directly. The Tennessee Valley Authority contracted MSC to certify eight sites in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky over the last five years. Of those sites, five have been sold to large users such as PACCAR and Volkswagen.
M-Tek Wins VW Contract

In April, Manchester, Tenn.-based M-Tek won a $147 million contract to produce interior door panels for Volkswagen's new mid-sized sedan that will be assembled at the German automaker's new plant near Chattanooga. VW expects production to begin in Chattanooga in early 2011.

Chicago-Based Graycor Selected to Build VW Plant

Chicago-based Graycor has been chosen by VW for the construction of the automaker's assembly and body shops, technical center and social area at the new plant under construction in Chattanooga, Tenn. The $63 million contract will source more than 60 percent to local contractors, 11 percent of which will be minority and woman-owned suppliers.

Volkswagen Sets Time Table for New Plant

In March, Frank Fischer, CEO of Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant, announced a time table for the construction and opening of the facility. Fischer said that some equipment will be installed at the plant this year, with construction finishing up in 2010. A full system trial is expected in mid-2010 with production of mid-sized sedans in the first half of 2011.

Volkswagen Contributes $5.28 Million to Educational Institutions in Tennessee

In the early spring quarter, Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations, LLC, announced a five-year, $5.28 million philanthropic commitment designed to serve as a catalyst for educational enrichment in the state of Tennessee. The company's "Partners in Education" program includes funding for Fisk University, Hamilton County Public Schools, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Tennessee State University, The University of Memphis, The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and The University of Tennessee- Knoxville. The program will also leverage and support the Volkswagen Group's relationship with Chattanooga State Community College, the lead institution for work force training at the company's new assembly plant in Chattanooga.

Dr. Horst Neumann, member of the Board of Management Volkswagen AG for Human Resources and Organization; Frank Fisher, CEO and Chairman of Volkswagen Group of America, Chattanooga Operations; and Stefan Jacoby, President and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, unveiled the philanthropic initiative. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Congressman Zach Wamp and representatives from recipient institutions were in attendance at an event announcing the initiative at Calvin Donaldson Elementary School. The school is part of the Hamilton County Public School system, one of the "Partners in Education" fund recipients.

Continental Tire Opens New Headquarters in S.C.

Continental Tire officially opened its new North American headquarters in Lancaster, S.C. in the early spring quarter. The company recently relocated its headquarters from Charlotte after South Carolina and Lancaster officials offered an incentive package that included a tax rate freeze at six percent. The new $11 million, 75,000-square-foot headquarters houses 375 employees.

GMAC to Add 200 Jobs in Charlotte

GMAC Financial Services will grow its Mecklenburg County operations and invest more than $16.4 million for an expanded corporate center. The Charlotte expansion is expected to create 200 finance, marketing and IT jobs over the next two years.

Mercedes-Benz Announces $290 Million Alabama Expansion

In April officials with Mercedes announced plans to invest $290 million in new equipment and facilities at its plant in Vance, Ala. The expansion will include a 200,000-square-foot addition to the plant's body shop, new robotics and other equipment that will be used to increase production and possibly additional models in the near future at the Alabama facility. The expansion is expected to be completed by October of 2011.

Nissan to Retool Mississippi Plant

Nissan Motor Co. announced in March it is investing $118 million to retool its Mississippi auto plant to produce the Japanese-based company's first U.S. commercial truck vehicle. The expansion will include a new line to produce the NV2500 cargo van. Nissan has partnered with Indiana-based Cummins for diesel engines for the commercial vehicle and Germany-based ZF Friedrichshafen AG for transmissions. Construction has already begun at the Canton, Miss. facility on a 49,000-square-foot paint shop expansion and other improvements have been announced including work on the trim and chassis shops. Nissan will cease assembly on its pickup truck, minivan and SUV models at the plant by the time commercial vehicle production begins in 2010.

Carbon Motors Announces Five States on Short List for Plant and Campus

Carbon Motors Corp. announced in late March that five U.S. states have made the short list for the location of the Carbon Campus, which will house the entirety of the company's operations. Carbon Motors is a new homeland security company that has developed the Carbon E7, the world's first purpose-built law enforcement patrol vehicle. The company's Web site claims that independent projections forecast that 10,000 new direct and indirect jobs will be created by the project. Formal Request for Proposals regarding a possible plant and campus has been issued to local, state and federal authorities in:

Georgia (Braselton and Pooler)
North Carolina (Charlotte)
South Carolina (Greenville and Spartanburg)
Michigan (Plymouth)
Indiana (Connersville)

Carbon Motors is a Georgia-based company that seeks to assemble the E7, a car designed by law enforcement for law enforcement. The vehicle will feature 360-degree built-in flashing LED lights, suicide rear doors, completely separate and washable suspect compartment and an automatic license plate recognition system. The vehicle will be powered by a 300-plus horsepower diesel engine and will also feature an aluminum unit body.

Shawmut, Kawashima Textile Announce New Operations in S.C.

Massachusetts-based Shawmut Corp. and Kyoto, Japan-based Kawashima Seikon announced the opening of Shawmut's new manufacturing operation in Lugoff, S.C. The joint venture deal includes a new production line at Kawashima. The companies produce lamination for the automotive markets. Kawashima will add new production equipment to supply Nissan with specialty fabric for the redesigned Altima model. Shawmut will supply Kawashima's existing facility in Lugoff. The $2.2 million deal is expected to create 30 new jobs.

UK Auto Insurer Locates U.S. Operations in Richmond, Va.

Admiral America recently announced it is locating a direct-to-consumer automobile insurer operation in the Richmond area. The company plans to employ 50 people this year, with projections of 200 jobs by the end of 2010. Admiral America is a subsidiary of Admiral Group plc, the United Kingdom's third-largest auto insurer.

Plastics Company Cuts 53 Workers in Alabama

SABIC Innovative Plastics, which produces plastic parts used in automotive production, announced in April it is cutting 53 jobs at its plant in Burkville, Ala. The plant employs about 350.

AW North Carolina Offers Buyouts

Auto parts supplier AW North Carolina has offered buyouts to all 1,100 employees at its 830,000-square-foot Durham, N.C. plant as part of a plan to reduce employment there to 500. AW North Carolina is a subsidiary of Japan's Aisan AW, a major supplier to Toyota. The company manufactures transmissions, oil pumps, torque converters and other products for Toyota.

There are 20 GM products, (Chevrolet), 15 Toyota products, 13 Chrysler products (Dodge) and 10 Ford Products racing at the highest level (Sprint Cup Series) of the NASCAR circuit.


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