Hyundai invites owner of ‘08 Santa Fe with 300K miles to plant for ‘21 kickoff

Hyundai kicks off ’21 Santa Fe production, local customer’s ’08 Santa Fe reaches 300,000 miles

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Official production on Hyundai’s 2021 Santa Fe SUV begins this week at the company’s Montgomery plant, but on Thursday all eyes were on one man’s 2008 model.

The vehicle’s owner, Harry Toothaker, was invited back to where it all started for his dependable set of wheels more than a decade ago. That’s because Toothaker’s ’08 model recently hit 300,000 miles.

Harry Toothaker stands with his 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV at the Montgomery plant where it was built. After driving it 300,000 miles, he was invited back to see the launch of the 2021 model Thursday.
Harry Toothaker stands with his 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV at the Montgomery plant where it was built. After driving it 300,000 miles, he was invited back to see the launch of the 2021 model Thursday. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Toothaker, an Auburn resident who works in Wetumpka, made the trek to Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama to check out the production facility and to let some of the team members see where their hard work has paid off.

“No, it definitely was not,” Toothaker explained when asked if he’d made it a goal to drive the SUV that many miles. He’s no stranger to Hyundai vehicles, though.

The new 2021 Santa Fe has come a long way since Harry Toothaker's 2008 model was built 13 years and 300,000 miles ago.
The new 2021 Santa Fe has come a long way since Harry Toothaker's 2008 model was built 13 years and 300,000 miles ago. (Source: HMMA)

“This is my third Hyundai,” he explained. “The first one I drove for 100 and, no 208,000 miles. The second one I drove 180,000 miles and now this one is a 303 actually.”

Toothaker said he was proud when he bought the vehicle because it was made in Montgomery.

“And I feel good about, you know, the folks here being longtime Hyundai employees who speak well of the company, and I’m proud for them.”

One of those team members is Sherry Cargill, who started at HMMA in 2006 and may very well have touched Toothaker’s vehicle on its way down the assembly line.

“To know that we have someone that’s been loyal to the brand and he has reached 300,000 miles. It says a lot. I feel great. I feel great about the company,” she explained.

During the visit, the ’08 model was parked right next to the new ’21 model for comparisons of 13 years of work.

Harry Toothaker and HMMA team members stand between his 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV and the new 2021 model.
Harry Toothaker and HMMA team members stand between his 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV and the new 2021 model. (Source: HMMA)

“It has definitely changed,” Cargill pointed out. “Like, you can really, really tell the difference from what we did back then. Everything about the vehicle has changed. We have upgraded everything, top of the line everything and safety is our first priority.”

So will Toothaker be trading in for something with zero on the odometer?

“I was telling everybody, I just hate to give it up now, you know?” he explained. “It’s still very reliable, it’s very comfortable. I drive a lot and comfort means a lot to me. So I’m kind of hesitant to make the move at this point, but we’ll see.”

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