November 2017

For real-time news on business, politics and economic development in the South, go to For all projects announced in the South, go to For more information on the automotive industry in the South, go to

BMW CEO threatens to pull out of Southern Auto Corridor if trade restrictions are passed
BMW employs nearly 10,000 at its plant in Spartanburg County, S.C. That doesn’t count tens of thousands more American workers that supply the German automaker’s only U.S. plant. . .its second largest plant in the world. The facility is the only place where X models are made, and last year the company exported $10 billion X models through the Port of Charleston to over 140 countries. In the fall quarter, BMW CEO Harald Krueger said on that he is optimistic that trade restrictions will not be implemented by the U.S. But if they are implemented, Krueger said, “If we would have trade barriers, maybe we would need to shift that production from here (South Carolina) to somewhere else because it can no longer be affordable.” It should be noted that all of the 19 major automotive assembly plants in the Southern Auto Corridor export their vehicles.

Nissan to expand Smyrna, Tenn., battery plant
Crews will expand the battery plant at the Nissan automobile factory by 26,450 square feet after the Smyrna Planning Commission approved the plans in October.

Fritz Winter opens Kentucky foundry
Germany-based Fritz Winter North America opened the first phase of its iron casting foundry and manufacturing facility in Franklin, Ky. The large-scale project will produce brake rotors and bring roughly 200 new jobs to the Bluegrass State. The company invested $110 million in the initial phase, which could grow to about $194 million with a planned expansion, and total employment could surpass 300.

Toyota debuts new Kentucky center
Toyota has opened its $80 million, 235,000-square-foot Production Engineering and Manufacturing Center in Georgetown, Ky. The facility will employ approximately 800 people, including 600 production engineers. The Georgetown facility will also help innovate and develop new technology for Toyota’s manufacturing plants across North America.

Royal Technologies expands Cullman, Ala., plant
Royal Technologies plans a $14 million expansion of its manufacturing operation in Cullman. The project is expected to create 25 jobs. The company produces polymer products, primarily plastic and foam, for the automotive, furniture and consumer goods industries.

Battery maker invests $35 million in new KC facility
Georgia-based Exide Technologies, an automotive and industrial battery manufacturer, has invested $35 million to create a state-of-the-art facility in Kansas City that will create up to 50 jobs.

Trucast expands operations in Newberry, S.C.
Trucast, a manufacturer of components for automotive engines and power generation, will invest $3 million to expand its operations center in Newberry. Part of the United Kingdom-headquartered Doncasters Group, Trucast supplies automotive manufacturers such as Borg Warner, Cummins and Honeywell.

SMW Manufacturing acquires Caterpillar operations in Lafayette County, Miss.
SMW Manufacturing is taking over operations at the former Caterpillar facility in Lafayette County. The company plans to invest in excess of $15 million and hire up to 50 employees, mostly former Caterpillar employees. SMW manufactures components for the heavy truck, automotive, mining, construction and industrial markets.

Nucor Steel announces $230 million expansion, 100 new jobs
Officials at Nucor Steel in Hickman, Ark., made a major announcement during their 25th anniversary celebration near Blytheville recently. A $230 million expansion means 100 more jobs. Company VP Mary Emily Slate said the new mill is the first of its kind. “This is the first mill in America that will take deeper reductions on higher strength steels so we can make stronger and lighter steels for many customers, including those in the automotive industry,” she said.

Hankook opens $800 million plant in Tennessee
The South Korean-based company unveiled its first U.S. manufacturing site in October at the grand opening event at Hankook’s new $800 million tire plant in Clarksville. Officials estimate 1,600 employees could be hired there.

Toyota and Mazda partner on EVs
Toyota, Mazda and Denso have signed a new partnership through which they will jointly establish a new company for the development of electric cars. Neither Toyota nor Mazda offer fully electric vehicles in their lineup yet, so the new partnership will give both automakers the basic structural components for EVs.

Auto parts company selects Memphis for new home
An auto parts supplier created in the merger of Memphis-area companies, has put its head office in Memphis. Highline Aftermarket will invest $500,000, add  91 jobs and expand its primary distribution center in Shelby County.

Plant expansion to bring 145 jobs to Burke County, N.C.
Governor Roy Cooper came to Burke County in October to tout the expansion and creation of 145 jobs at Continental’s Morganton plant. The investment coincided with the German auto parts plant’s 25th anniversary.

Toyota investing in Southern plants
Toyota just upped the stakes to remain the top manufacturer of hybrid vehicles worldwide with a $373.8 million investment in five U.S. manufacturing plants to support production of its first American-made hybrid powertrain. Of the total investment, Bodine Aluminum in Troy, Mo., receives $17 million, and $14.56 million will go to the Bodine plant in Jackson, Tenn. The automaker’s plant in Georgetown, Ky., will get $120 million to expand production of the 2.5-liter engine. Other plants in line for additional investment are located in West Virginia and Alabama.

Perrone Robotics expands in Albemarle County, Va.
Perrone Robotics, a developer of autonomous car software, will invest $3.8 million to expand its research and development operation in Albemarle County, Va. The company expects to create 127 new jobs.

Denso investing $1 billion in Tennessee plant, creating 1,000 jobs
Japan-based global automotive supplier Denso announced that the company will expand its operations in Maryville, Tenn. Denso will create approximately 1,000 jobs and invest $1 billion to make its Blount County facility a primary manufacturing center in North America for electrification and safety systems.

Giti opens in South Carolina
Giti Tires, headquartered in Singapore, has opened its first U.S. plant, set to bring 1,700 jobs to Chester County. The global company partnered with Wal-Mart as part of the retailer’s commitment to purchase $250 billion in products, supporting American jobs.


Author: Michael Randle