The auto industry has seen a steady rise in Alabama over the last 20 years, making Alabama one of the Top 5 auto-producing states in the U.S. Last year, for the second year in a row, more than 1 million vehicles were built thanks to the combined efforts of workers at Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai.
Since the auto production is booming, so are the jobs. Jobs in the area have grown by more than 200 percent over the past 15 years. In 2016, there were 38,730 jobs at Alabama auto, engine and motor parts manufacturers. This number is up from 12,760 in 2001, according to data from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA).
Of all those jobs combined, the average annual earnings are $70,680. The economic output of the state’s auto and parts manufacturing industries has also grown. The industries profits have grown from an estimated $1.1 billion in 1997 to about $6.2 billion by 2014, according to the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama.
February 14, 1997, the day the first customer-ready M-Classes began rolling off of the assembly line, no one could even dream of where those vehicles would lead, said Steve Sewell, EDPA executive vice president.
“When Job 1 rolled off the line at Mercedes 20 years ago, no one could have imagined what was ahead for the auto industry in Alabama,” he said. “The growth and economic impact have far exceeded our expectations, and the industry’s extraordinary success has earned the state a reputation as a top business location.”
While Mercedes held the key to kicking off the booming auto industry in Alabama, the industry would not be where it is today without the major contributions of Honda and Hyundai. Honda and Hyundai both built their own auto assembly plants in Alabama in the years following the M-Class debut.
Other contributions came to follow – Toyota also built an engine plant, as well as hundreds of other suppliers and support businesses.
However, Mercedes decision to build its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Alabama was seen around the world as a signal that Alabama was a fertile ground for new business opportunities, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“That decision was the key that opened the doors to an industry that continues to create new opportunities today,” he said. “It was a vote of confidence from a premium automaker with a long and storied history of innovation and excellence that saw great potential in Alabama.”