It’s a historic time for automotive in the South

By Michael Randle

We have arrived at Southern Automotive Corridor 3.0. Phase 1 took us to the ’80s, second phase to the early 2000s. Now with electric cars, we are at 3.0, and it is amazing. Huge deals are flying everywhere in the Southern Auto Corridor.

This summer and fall quarter will be remembered 50 years from now as the most transformative period in the history of automotive manufacturing, not just in the South, but in the Midwest, too — the only two regions in the U.S. that are left with automotive assembly.

Even though Nissan, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz and their plants in the South have spent billions on electric vehicle technology, it really wasn’t until the second half of 2021 that just about everyone got in on the act. The billions spent earlier by some automakers in the South looks like chump change compared to what has been announced recently.

Massive EV-based projects were announced in the South in the second half of 2021. Ford announced projects the size of which we have never seen before. . .for example, automotive “cities” in Hardin County, Ky., and in Stanton, Tenn.

Ford announced its plans in September to create Blue Oval City at the West Memphis I-40 megasite in Stanton, Tenn. The new “city” includes an investment of nearly $6 billion to make electric vehicles, including a next-generation electric Ford F-Series model. Blue Oval City will also include (not counting suppliers) up to 6,000 new jobs. Over $800 million has been earmarked in incentives for Ford in the deal. Earlier in 2021, Ford announced it had increased its planned EV investment to $30 billion by 2025.

Here are some other EV automotive-related projects announced in the South just in the last six months:

  • Ford Motor and battery supplier SK Innovation have plans to invest over $5 billion and hire over 5,000 in an electric battery plant at the Glendale Megasite in Hardin County, Ky.,  that will power EV vehicles in the future.
  • The Ultium Cells LLC battery plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., is on schedule as of the fall quarter, company officials announced. The 2.8 million-square-foot facility is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution.
  • Japan’s Nissan Motor Company will spend about $700 million at its two U.S. manufacturing plants in Mississippi and Tennessee to implement new technologies to make electric vehicles.
  • Mercedes-Benz is opening an EV battery pack assembly facility on a second Alabama campus in Bibb County.
  • Korean automaker Hyundai will begin EV production on the Genesis GV70 EV at its plant in Montgomery, Ala., beginning in 2022.
  • Amazon-backed electric truck maker Rivian is expected to announce a
    $5 billion electric truck and SUV factory in East Georgia.
  • South Korea’s SKC, a maker of plastic films, is set to invest $473 million to locate a semiconductor parts venture at its existing plant in Georgia. SK also is home to SK Innovation, which has invested $2.6 billion to put an electric-vehicle battery plant in Jackson County and plans to ramp up a second plant on the complex as demand grows.
  • Japanese automaker Toyota has chosen the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite for a large electric battery plant to ramp up EV manufacturing in the U.S. The site is a 1,825-acre site rezoned for heavy industry located near the center of the state.
  • Tesla will move its headquarters to Austin, Texas, following through on a threat Elon Musk made last year when tensions between the billionaire and California boiled over. Musk announced his decision in October.

Author: Stacy Randle