The news keeps getting better for the automotive industry. According to a recent survey by the audit, tax and consulting firm of KPMG, three-quarters of American auto executives plan to hire over the next 12 months and 83 percent of them expect their firm’s revenue to be higher a year from now.
Which states are best poised to take advantage of this growth? Most of them happen to be in the Southeast. Six of the top 10 states ranked for automotive manufacturing strength by Business Facilities were part of the Southeastern or Southern region, including: Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. The remaining four included the Midwestern states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.
Tennessee Keeps its Lead
Tennessee captured the lead for its automotive strength for the second consecutive year.
With its easy access to multiple customers and high concentration of suppliers, the state’s auto industry is a powerhouse of nearly 900 automotive-related enterprises, which collectively employ more than 105,000 workers. It’s on pace to grow even more as Volkswagen ramps up production at its plant in Chattanooga, Nissan rolls out its all-electric Leaf in Smyrna and GM restarts operations at its former Saturn plant in Spring Hill.
New Models, Technology Puts Kentucky Ahead
Kentucky, which supports more than 65,000 jobs in the industry and more than 400 automotive-related facilities, also finished strong with a second-place ranking.
Its renewed partnership with Ford resulted in a $1 billion investment in its Louisville facilities, which will manufacture the next generation of the Super Duty F-series truck and the next model of the popular Escape. Multimillion expansions continue at Toyota’s assembly complex in Georgetown — the company’s largest production facility outside Japan — and GM is investing more than $131 million to produce the latest version of its iconic Corvette in Bowling Green.
Kentucky’s automotive sector is expected to gain even more traction with its newly established advanced battery tech center in Lexington.
Production on a Roll in South Carolina
Rounding out the top three is South Carolina, home to approximately 250 automotive-related companies and BMW’s only North American assembly operation.
BMW’s $750 million investment in its Spartanburg County campus has allowed the German automaker to boost its production capacity to 240,000 units in the state, where it produces the X3 and X5 Sports Activity Vehicles and the X6 Sports Activity coupe. And another $100 expansion is on the way.
Assets such as the Port of Charleston, along with the state’s network of technical colleges and its automotive engineering collaboration at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, make South Carolina fertile ground for the industry. It also dominates the tire manufacturing market, with Michelin employing more than 8,000 at seven South Carolina facilities and investing an additional $200 million in a passenger tire plant in Lexington County.
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