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Driver gets surprise after Alabama-built Hyundai hits 1M miles

Farrah Haines stands beside her silver 2013 Hyundai Elantra.
Farrah Haines stands beside her silver 2013 Hyundai Elantra.(Ryan NIcholson Photography | Source: Hyundai Motor America)
Updated: Dec. 19, 2018 at 6:18 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - On a nondescript day in 2013, a silver Elantra rolled off the assembly line at Hyundai’s massive Montgomery, Alabama plant. Its creation wasn’t newsworthy. It was, after all, one of thousands of identical Elantras to be produced that year.

But it turned out to be a very special vehicle. It just took five years to realize it.

No, its production number wasn’t unique. It wasn’t the millionth Hyundai, or anything like that. Those vehicles get instant celebration. Camera crews and high school bands join company and county officials and applaud right alongside the line workers as the special vehicle gets whisked off the line with flowers and a vanity plate to mark the milestone.

Farrah Haines' silver Elantra made the slow roll through quality control with no such fanfare. It would soon be loaded onto a carrier and end up 800 miles away in Olathe, Kansas. It wouldn’t stay in Olathe very long.

Haines, a delivery driver, is always on the road, literally. And on the road is where the silver Elantra earned Hyundai some publicity worth its weight in gold.

The average American driver puts about 14,000 miles on their vehicle per year. Haines? Try 200,000. She drives both night and day, seven days a week. Her oil changes? Every two weeks.

And if you do the math (we’ve done it for you) about five years worth of driving those kinds of distances will put you in the year 2018 (now) and at the pivotal 1-million mile mark. And most importantly, she did it with the vehicle’s original powertrain.

Hyundai got word of Haines' feat not long before she achieved it and wanted to be there for the momentous occasion.

Hyundai said there are some who might find Haines' story impossible, but the car company ran multiple tests on her vehicle to validate her odometer reading. The car was inspected by product engineers who looked over engine casting numbers, service records, the wire harness, and even the motor mounts.

The company then checked Haines’ mileage records from her two jobs, did a VIN report, and even contacted Carfax. She passed everything.

“My Hyundai has been a great car to me,” she said. “I love to drive and have made a successful career out of it, so it was no surprise that I was able to get to a million miles. The key is to prioritize regular maintenance and to have a quality vehicle."

Then came the day for the big milestone. But there was a problem.

Newer cars are much more complex than your older vehicles. The odometers are now digital, and many of them stop at 999,999. That wouldn’t do for a driver needing that key extra mile, namely Haines.

“People aren’t really going to see that it has a million,” she said. “That’s kind of the downside about the whole thing.”

So the car company did something it’s never done. It manufactured a genuine production part, a gold “1M” emblem that can be installed on the odometer for anyone who joins the rare 7-figure club. Haines also got a golden license plate plaque.

She wanted to aim for 2 million miles, but there could be a slowdown toward hitting that feat.

Hyundai decided Haines deserved something special, but because she’s on the road all the time, they weren’t going to chase her down to surprise her. They were going to let her deliver the surprise to... herself. The keys to a brand new, red, Alabama-built, 2019 Hyundai Elantra.

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