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Tornadoes Affect Auto Production In The South

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On: Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 4:31PM | By: Tim Healey

Tornadoes Affect Auto Production In The South

Severe storms that swept through the South spawning tornadoes have done plenty of damage this week. Not only does the death toll stand around 250 as this is written, but the damage is expected to affect automotive production as well.

Production at plants managed by Toyota and Mercedes-Benz in Alabama has been halted due to the storms.

Mercedes-Benz has a plant located just north of Tuscaloosa, which is among the hardest-hit areas. A mile-wide tornado struck the area on Wednesday, causing damage to the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International assembly plant. The GL, M, and R-Class models are produced there.

Other plants are without power, and the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa will be offline through Friday.

Toyota has an engine plant in Huntsville that was shutdown when the area lost power, and company officials expect it to remain offline throughout the weekend. That plant supplies V-6 and V-8 engines to the Tacoma mid-size pickup, the Tundra full-size pickup, and the Sequoia SUV.

Damage to cell-phone towers is also causing communications problems between the automakers and their suppliers.

Hyundai and Honda both indicated that their plants in Alabama escaped damage, but that doesn't mean employees and their families are unaffected by the damage.

The storms likely damaged plenty of dealerships and repair shops as well.

It's hard to tell how long the affected plants will be shuttered, or how production—and sales—will be affected. But it's clear that Alabama will be digging out for a while, and that those affected will be more worried about recovering from the storm than building cars.

It's been a tough year for automotive production so far. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March greatly affected production in that country, and now at least two American plants have been hit by these storms.

Automotive production is not a matter of life and death, of course. But there is an economic impact from these events, and the recovery will bear watching.


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