In Montgomery, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) has just wrapped up a massive $410 million expansion project in preparation for assembling the 2022 Santa Cruz, the car company’s first pickup truck.
But this past fall, Hyundai tapped HMMA to also produce the 2022 Tucson SUV as well. That brings HMMA’s total product line to five. The line includes the popular Elantra sedan, the Sonata sedan and the Santa Fe SUV. The Elantra was named 2021 North American “Car of the Year.”
“The beauty of the five-vehicle mix is being able to adjust production across all of those platforms to meet or exceed the needs of the marketplace,” says HMMA spokesperson Robert Burns. “Because we’ll be building all the vehicles on the same production line, the manpower to support Santa Cruz will automatically also support the Tucson.”
To prepare for the Santa Cruz and other vehicles going forward, much of the expansion work centered on building out warehouse space for parts consolidation and sorting before those parts are moved to the production line, Burns says.
“The other aspect was an expansion to our stamping and molding operations,” he says, adding that the additional space will provide room for storing stamping dies for all five vehicles.
“Then in the weld shop, because you have five vehicles, you need to expand the welding robot capacity to prepare various
components to be assembled into a vehicle,” says Burns. “It supports additional welding stations and/or robots to support that.”
The 2022 Tucson is, according to Hyundai, its bestselling model globally. A Hyundai press statement says that the vehicle’s gasoline and hybrid models will be sold to the U.S. market starting in spring 2021. It went on to say that HMMA would assemble the internal combustion models.
“Because it’s a small SUV, the Tucson will appeal to anyone who is buying their first or second car — millennials,” says Burns. “But, at the same time, it can also be appealing to baby boomers because of its size. There’s enough room and is easy to get in and out of. And, they may not want a large SUV if they’re empty nesters. So the Tucson crosses the spectrum.”
16 years of HMMA
Production of the Tucson and the Santa Cruz will begin 16 years after HMMA produced its first vehicle, a 2006 Sonata, in May 2005. The auto plant now has 3,100 employees.
Production at HMMA came to a stop in mid-March 2020, after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The total vehicle production output went from 30,500 in February to 19,914 in March and to just 1,118 in April. The plant did not fully reopen until May 4.
HMMA’s January-through-November 2020 vehicle production figures show that the plant assembled 69,406 Elantras, 77,426 Sonatas and 95,777 Santa Fe vehicles. That’s a total of 242,609 vehicles.
The plant’s maximum production capacity is about 400,000 per year.
“The last time we got close to attaining 400,000 units was back in 2013-2015,” says Burns, “so we hope to get back up to that level in a year or two down the road.”
HMMA typically ships its finished vehicles across the United States. The plant also exports to Guam, Puerto Rico, Mexico, El Salvador and Canada. Preliminary figures for January to November 2020 show that the Montgomery plant exported 12,680 finished vehicles. The plant shipped another 229,929 vehicles across the United States.