South Korea's biggest auto supplier is coming to the United States in the wake of a North American move by its biggest customer.
Hyundai Mobis announced it will invest an estimated $30 million to create Mobis Alabama LLC in Montgomery, Ala. Mobis Alabama will make instrument panels, front- and rear-end modules for Hyundai Motor Co.'s $1 billion assembly plant now under construction in Montgomery. Hyundai Motor is Hyundai Mobis' largest shareholder.
Mobis Alabama has not announced yet what machinery it will purchase for its plant, but all of the systems use plastics extensively. Mobis Alabama will begin with about 430 employees housed in 420,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Hyundai Mobis has other North American ties, but no production. It has licensed technology from Collins & Aikman Corp. of Troy, Mich., through an operating agreement. The two companies also have worked jointly on preliminary designs for instrument panels set for production in South Korea and the United States, said C&A spokesman David Youngman. It is too early to determine if the companies will have some working agreement in the United States as Mobis Alabama launches, he said.
Hyundai is the first South Korean car company to move production to North America. Alabama already is home to a DaimlerChrysler AG plant for Mercedes vehicles in Vance and Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s new operation in Lincoln.
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is in the final construction stage for its new plant across the state line in Canton, Miss., while Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to announce a new location in the next few months, with Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas among those states vying for the site.
Honda also is in the midst of expanding its Alabama plant, a $580 million project to double production. That work will include a duplication of the automaker's existing in-house plastics operations.
Since 1996, Alabama has seen a 31 percent boost in its auto industry, with 31 percent of the 116 assembly and supplier jobs designated as producing ``rubber and plastic'' parts, according to a survey by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
``The better we get situated with [assembly plants], the more customer base we can get, the more calls we get,'' said Randy Cardoza, senior vice president corporate development and recruitment for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.