Hyundai Revs Up Production In Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- More than 3,000 employees at the Hyundai automobile plant in central Alabama will return to a full work schedule this month making the Sonata sedan and the Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle after months of production slowdown.

The company is exporting record numbers of vehicles, officials said, and the slowdown in production has created the need to boost inventory despite the recession and sales that remain below 2008 levels.

The return to full-time operations for the rest of July was mostly because of steady demand, both in the United States and in Canada, said factory spokesman Robert Burns. The plant shipped a record 3,140 Santa Fe SUVs to Canada in June and had total exports of 4,062, second highest in plant history.

"That is a pretty significant number," Burns said of the Santa Fe exports.

Hyundai sold 19,098 Montgomery-made models in the U.S. last month, the highest monthly total since August 2008.

Ellen McNair, senior vice president for corporate development at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, said the production increase would be felt throughout the area.

"We are just thrilled about that," she said. "We are glad to hear they are back."

She was particularly excited that the plant's exports markets have grown. "If they can expand that market, that means more work for people in Montgomery," said McNair.

While Hyundai is returning to a full-time work schedule, the plant will not be back to full production, at least for July. Burns said plant managers want to produce about 900 vehicles daily, below normal production of 1,000 units.

Burns said production decisions in the future will be announced in monthly employee meetings.

Hyundai is one of three automotive assembly factories in Alabama, and all have cut hours or jobs during the economic downtown. Mercedes-Benz has a plant in Tuscaloosa County west of Birmingham, and Honda builds cars in Talladega County east of Birmingham.