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Wednesday, 06 February 2019 19:41

Alabama Auto Plants Brace for Tariffs

Written by Brad Harper, Montgomery Advertiser
Workers assembled vehicles in the weld shop at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, AL, on Jan. 18. Workers assembled vehicles in the weld shop at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery, AL, on Jan. 18. Jake Crandall, Montgomery Advertiser


Jones also talked about the possibility of shifting national security investigations to the Department of Defense instead of the Department of Commerce or implementing other measures to “call back some of the power the president has” to enact those tariffs.


“Hopefully, it won’t come to that,” Jones said.


The Road Ahead


The Hyundai plant has spent the past year clawing back from a downturn caused by slumping sedan sales.


It switched its production mix and started rolling out more Santa Fe SUVs. That paid off. The company set an all-time December sales record in North America while establishing more of a foothold in the only vehicle segment that’s been growing. It’s selling more Hyundais at dealerships and fewer at a deep discount to rental or corporate fleets.


The assembly line had slowed during the 2017 downturn as the company tried to roll out fewer vehicles without laying off employees.


The plant added 75 people when it sped up the line again in July---the same month that the Trump administration was holding hearings on its tariff plan.

The new $388 million engine head machining shop should be up and running by May. They’re already gearing up to roll out a redesigned Sonata in August.


They expect to build 335,000 vehicles this year, up slightly from 2018. That’s the tentative plan, anyway, based on sales projections. They’re ready to change on the fly.


“(Tariffs) may influence that, but right now all those are still hypothetical,” Burns said. “It does make it difficult for any business to plan.”


This article was originally published on Jan. 25, 2019 in Montgomery Advertiser.

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