Hyundai: Above the Bailout

In the 80's they may have been a punch line for car jokes, but look who's laughing now.  Hyundai is going toe to toe with the big boys.  Right now the company with a huge plant in Montgomery, is leading the way.

In a sea of robots and sparks, something special is happening at Montgomery's Hyundai plant.  Hyundai, once an off-brand compact car that sputtered on the scene in the mid 80's, is now a leader in the automotive industry.  "Instead of being the brunt of jokes we're taken pretty seriously," says Ashley Frye, Hyundai Production Director.

Hyundai came up with the Assurance Plan. With many folks worried about their jobs, this plans allows car owners who lose their income to return their car.  Three months later Ford and GM followed Hyundai's lead adding similar programs.  More than a decade ago Hyundai was the first car maker to offer the super warranty, 10 years, 100,000 miles.

It's not just Hyundai's innovative ideas that are pushing them to the front of the pack, it now has the cars to back it up.  "I think when a customer is looking for their value their attention is shifting to Hyundai.  We offer a high quality vehicle with a reasonable price," explains Frye.

The Hyundai plant in Montgomery cranks out a new Santa Fe or Sonata every 18 hours.  It's the largest industrial and manufacturing employer in the Montgomery Area.  A combination of ultra accurate robots and hard working team members make a perfect pair.  "You make a quality product, and they'll come back," says Hyundai Team Member Tommy Cauthen.

While the Big Three: Ford, GM and Chrysler are laying off thousands of workers and Chrysler declaring bankruptcy, Hyundai keeps rolling along.  Hyundai isn't recession proof.  It cut back to a four day work week and reduced hours.  This plant expects to make more than 220,000 cars in 2009 and not lay off a single one of their 2700 employees.  "I'm happy with Hyundai, they're trying to keep us running with our job," says Hyundai Team Leader Pat Means.

A report from Automotive News shows car sales in the first four months of the year in 2008 compared to 2009.

  • Hyundai is down 3.7%
  • Chrysler is down 46.2%
  • GM dropped 45%
  • Ford is down 41.5%

Another big difference between Hyundai and the big three, Hyundai doesn't rely on union workers, which gives them a lot more flexibility.  Hyundai officials say this allows them to shift hours and production schedule depending on consumer demand.

Friday night on WSFA 12 News at 10:00, we'll hit the production line and talk with workers who put the cars together.

Posted by: Brooke Bailey - bio | email

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