Montgomery's economic future was solidified when Hyundai Motor Company announced it would build its first U.S. plant in the city. The company is pouring a billion dollars into the facility. With that kind of investment, WSFA 12 News wanted to learn more about Hyundai.
Our mark bullock traveled as a guest of the Korean government from the deep south to the far east, touring Hyundai headquarters in Seoul, South Korea and several other locations across the country.
To tell Hyundai's story, one must start with a someone disappointing past. Hyundai's car manufacturing division started in 1967. It was 1986 when it exported its first car to the U.S. You may remember the Hyundai Excel and its not-so-impressive track record.
But in only a few short years, Hyundai's reputation went from worst to first. Dealers will tell you that the Hyundai of today ranks near the very top of consumer satisfaction surveys - even higher than Mercedes and BMW.
"In the last five to six years, the commitment by the company has unilaterally made the quality much better," says Montgomery Hyundai Dealership manager Bob Meredith.
Hyundai employees in Korea credit their company's late founder and chairman for inspiring a renewed sense of cooperation shortly before his death in 2001. "With the leadership of Chairman Ju Yung Chung, all of the staff in our company are doing the best they can to improve the quality of cars we are producing," explains Hyundai Vice President Joo Soo Ahn.
As the level of quality rises, so does production. The number of cars Hyundai produces is growing dramatically. It's already up to more than two million a year. And most of them are exported. It has forced the government to reserve an entire port in Ulsan exclusively for Hyundai.
"It's a busy place to load our cars," says Hyundai spokesman Jeong Woong Cho. "This port's capacity can't cover other shipments."
The increase in production is so substantial that Hyundai's Ulsan plant is now considered the largest automobile factory in the world. "In terms of its production volume, the Ulsan plant is the world's largest single car manufacturing plant," said Cho.
So, it appears that Hyundai has made an impressive comeback. And company officials promise that the trend will continue, especially with the addition of a plant in Montgomery, which they say is crucial to the company's future.