A Spirit of Cooperation – How the South Became the New Automotive Corridor

SAC 2021 Governors Panel

Photo: Governors Panel SAC 2021: Lindsay Chappell – Editor, Automotive News; Henry McMaster – Governor of South Carolina; Tate Reeves – Governor of Mississippi; and Kay Ivey – Governor of Alabama

SimpleQuE was an exhibitor at the 2021 Southern Automotive Conference (SAC) in Birmingham, Alabama October 13-15, 2021, where the theme was “Made in the South”.  That has become more evident over the last 3 decades as manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Mazda, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (a new joint venture), Honda, Kia, Nissan, Hyundai, Tesla, BMW, PACCAR, and others have made major investments in facilities, infrastructure and manpower in the southern states – resulting in billions of dollars for their economies.  The expansion of the OEMs and automotive suppliers in the South demonstrates their commitment and shift of the industry to meet the challenges of the future.  What you see at SAC is a true spirit of cooperation in the South – among the States, OEMs, suppliers and agencies .

  • The automotive industry’s drive south, began in 1948 when GM built a factory in Doraville, GA
  • Then other manufacturers followed with:
    • Nissan in Smyrna, TN – 1983
    • Toyota in Georgetown, KY – 1986
    • GM in Springhill, TN – 1990
  • Growth in the south exceeded everyone’s expectations with so many OEMS, resulting in the need for infrastructure, suppliers and skilled workforce.
  • In 2024 AL is targeted to be the 2nd largest auto producer in the US
  • In a spirit of cooperation, Mazda and Toyota created Mazda Toyota Manufacturing – a joint venture manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Alabama, which will have the ability to build 300,000 vehicles a year and is expected to create at least 4,000 new jobs.
  • The south is positioned to be the “new automotive corridor”.

7 States make up the “Made in the South” automotive manufacturer associations – Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.  According to the data shared at SAC, these states have successfully partnered with OEMs to establish thriving automotive industries.

Georgia – 3 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)

  • Kia, Bluebird and Honda Precision Parts
  • 421,577 vehicles built in 2019
  • 200+ automotive suppliers
  • 29,489 automotive jobs
  • $3.2 billion exports

Kentucky – 3 OEMs

  • Toyota, Ford, GM
  • 100,000+ automotive jobs in 525 automotive related manufacturing facilities
  • 1,249,318 cars and trucks built in 2019
  • $4.6 billion from exported vehicles and parts

Mississippi – 3 OEMs

  • Nissan, Toyota, Paccar
  • 388,686 vehicles built in 2019
  • 186 automotive suppliers
  • 40,000 automotive jobs
  • $872 million in exports

South Carolina – 3 OEMs

  • Volvo, BMW, Mercedes Benz Vans
  • 400,000 vehicles in 2019
  • 500 automotive companies
  • 70,000 employed
  • $10.3 billion – Ranked 1st in US export sales of completed passenger vehicles
  • $1.7 billion – 1st in export sales of tires


  • $3.1 billion in automotive exports – transportation equipment
  • 800,000+ cars, SUVs and light trucks produced annually
  • 123,000 employed
  • 900+ automotive suppliers
  • 3 Lithium-ion battery plants
  • 16,000 electric cars produced annually – #1 in the SE for EV production

Texas – 5 OEMs

  • Toyota, GM, Tesla, Caterpillar, Peterbilt
  • 539,000 vehicles built in 2019
  • 266 suppliers
  • 48,500 employed
  • $22.3 billion in exports

Alabama – 5 OEMs

  • Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, Hyundai
  • In 2019 produced 947,329 Cars, SUVs and light trucks
  • 43,755 employed
  • $7 billion in exports
  • 1.5 million engines
  • 152 automotive supplierspendable supply chain


The table below shows how the percentage of automotive manufacting is distributed by region.  It’s evident that the Southern States are producing a sugniticant percentage of cars and auto parts . They are able to attract OEMs by offering them what they need in terms of site locations, infrastructure and access to ports, rail and transportation, fast permitting procesess, capital investment, and most importantly, people resources.



There will be tremendous business opportunities and significant challenges as the transportation and auto industries evolve.  100% Electric vehicles are coming quickly and there is a very limited supply chain in the US versus overseas.  The new manufacturing facilities in the South are positioned for this transformation with the latest technology and innovation.


Serving automotive suppliers since 2005, SimpleQuE is a leader in IATF 16949® and ISO consultingauditing and training.  Whether you are just beginning the certification process or looking for a partner for ongoing gap analysis and internal audit assistance, simpleQuE makes the process easier and more efficient. Contact us for a consult and see the difference that simpleQuE can bring to your quality management process.

SimpleQuE is not associated with the IATF®, IAOB, ANAB®, IAQG®, and is not a certification body. SimpleQuE is an independent consulting, training, and second-party auditing service provider that assists a company on a path to obtain and maintain certification through accredited certification bodies.


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